100 Greatest Albums of the 90’s: #43

The Chemical Brothers – Exit Planet Dust and Dig Your Own Hole

Dance music today largely exists in two categories:
Category 1: Blonde German female singers, who all sound exactly the same, singing sped up Bryan Adams songs; sort of a really loud version of Muzak. See: Cascada.
Category 2: Extremist noisy cacophonies designed to give you nosebleeds; favoured by sweaty students shouting “CHOOON!!”. See: The Bloody Beetroots.
Occasionally you get exceptions to the rule and, depending on where you go, they can be really quite good. The Chems were caught in a similar world of dance dirge when they released ‘Exit Planet Dust’ and what a wonderful change it made. What’s wrong with “Category 2” is the fact that there’s no craft in the noise. ‘Exit’ and ‘Dig’ are full of those thrilling noises, squeals and gurgles too, but it’s put together so well; it all sounds so vibrant and original, not noise for the sake of noise. It all forms a richly detailed canvas, but shakes the room like a comet hitting the chimney. On ‘Exit’ the first half is a sonic boom, a psychedelic basement rave. The second half is perfect for the crossover between the point where everyone’s buzzing and the point where everyone’s collapsing clutching their Bacardi Breezers; still lively, but with a subtle hint of drunken reflection, dimmed senses and morning-after hangovers. ‘Dig’ is an expertly pieced-together pandemonium of sirens, unstable bangs and dark, trippy atmospheres. Both are far too evenly matched to be separate entries since each of them puts modern dross to shame and proves that sometimes, there are dance records that seem to get just about everything right.

‘Exit…’ highlights: The ice cool guitar entry in ‘Leave Home’; Beth Orton’s soulful vocal in ‘Alive Alone’; the rattling din of ‘Song To The Siren’. Listen to: Leave Home

‘Dig…’ highlights: The bit where ‘Elektrobank’ goes supernova at the end; the buzz-saw grind of ‘Setting Sun’; the clarinet solo in ‘The Private Psychedelic Reel’. Listen to: Setting Sun

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