The most stuck-in-the-mud anti-techie alive could not have been more skeptical of America's Great Electronica Hype than a lot of longtime ravers were in 1997. The big push given to the Prodigy, Propellerheads, Roni Size, Fatboy Slim and a handful of others seemed disproportionate to the music's original aims — wasn't a lack of star power one of the things people in the rave scene liked about it? Whatever the case, the Chemical Brothers seemed most suspicious of all. Their music drew heavily from hip-hop at its most rock-inflected (circa Def Jam's early years), and they sure did like their riffs to blare. They'd employed Noel Gallagher of Oasis on "Setting Sun," the 1996 single that preceded Dig Your Own Hole; the track sounded like a Beatles rip-off, starring a Beatles rip-off. And I straight-up disliked "Block Rockin' Beats" — too damn spastic for its own good, I decided. Humph.
At the end of the year, Simon Reynolds wrote, "If the snotty-minded actually heard the best bits of Dig Your Own Hole…unidentified, I bet they'd be rushing up to the DJ booth shrieking, 'Whatdafuck is that amazing tune?' and craning their necks to get a glimpse of the label." Guilty as charged. The track: "It Doesn't Matter," one of the absolute heaviest pieces of house music ever cut — the bass stampedes everything in its path, and somehow it doesn't get boring. "Yeah," the club DJ who gave me the news said as he watched my face fall. "I wanted to hate them too. They're just too good."
Dig Your Own Hole certainly was — and still is. While I stand by my initial assessment of "Block Rockin' Beats," it does include a pretty cunning intro, and other tracks utilize its basic approach but do it better, particularly "Elektrobank," with its deranged hook: "Who is this doin' this synthetic type of alpha-beta-psychedelic funkin'?" (In a sense, Fatboy Slim's "Rockafeller Skank" — featuring the hook "right about now, the funk soul brother" — is a sequel to "Elektrobank." I was never snooty enough to dislike "Setting Sun": who doesn't love "Tomorrow Never Knows" and its sundry offspring? Noel doesn't sound bad, either. But "The Private Psychedelic Reel" is the Chemical Brothers' — and this album's — claim to Beatle-like godhead. Named for a homemade tape the Fabs had concocted for acid trips, the track's got the biggest break on an album full of enormous snares and kicks, and a sitar riff George would have reconsidered Krishna for.