Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Chemical Brothers - "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" (LP Review)

Although The Chemical Brothers originally began as producers and DJs, it wasn't until 1998 and after two successful studio LPs that they officially released their first DJ mix LP, "Brothers Gonna Work It Out". Ok, technically this mix is based on their 1997 "Radio 1 Anti-Nazi Mix", but that was a limited release on their own label, Freestyle Dust, and "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" was released on the much larger Astralwerks label.

I became a big fan of the Chemicals when singles from their 1997 LP, "Dig Your Own Hole", surprisingly received a fair amount of radio airplay (powered mainly by Noel Gallagher singing on "Setting Sun", although even "Block Rockin' Beats" made the playlist). After getting a copy of the then hard to find debut LP "Exit Planet Dust", I was hooked.

So in 1998 I got this LP as soon as it came out. I'm pretty sure it was the first DJ mix LP I bought, and I have to admit that buying an LP of people mixing other people's music seemed a little odd at first. Since then, I've become quite a fan of the genre and I've lost track of how many I've added to my collection. The expectations for a mix LP is to 1) tell a story and 2) recontextualize both the familiar and unknown in the DJ's own unique style.

"Brothers Gonna Work It Out" succeeds at both. First, all the songs are presented through The Chemical Brother's big beat filter; indeed several of them are either remixes of songs by the Chemicals or other people's remixes of their own songs. There are a few 70's era funk songs (mostly from soundtracks) thrown in the mix for variety, but mostly it comes from their contemporary mid 90's big beat bands. As such, the entire mix very much sounds like a Chemical Brothers LP, and that means it is as subtle as a sledgehammer. Thievery Corporation makes smoother mixes, James Lavelle/Unkle make more experimental mixes, DJ Spooky makes more abstract mixes, and DJ Shadow's mixes are like a textbook, but I'm not sure anyone rawks harder than the Chemicals in their mixes.

The mix also does a good job of taking the listener on the journey. They take their foot off the accelerator for a few short moments ("Gimme Some Love", "Mother Earth", "I Think I'm in Love"), but mostly it slams from one track to another because, well, that's what The Chemical Brothers do. They do a good job of foreshadowing upcoming tracks and referencing motifs from previous songs (e.g., "Mars Needs Women" and "Take That Motherf*ers!").

Here is the track list taken from Wikipedia, with links to the more obscure bands going to if they don't have a Wikipedia entry:
I think tracks 1-3 are the strongest, or at least sample from songs I like better. Track 4 starts off strong with "Mars Needs Women", but "Losing Control" and "Mother Earth" are a bit weak. Track 5 echoes the psychedelic final two tracks on "Dig Your Own Hole", and while it is strong (and points are awarded for integrating Spiritualized into the mix), it doesn't standout as much as the first three tracks.

Standout tracks: Track 1 (YouTube, Grooveshark), Track 2, Track 3. (N.B. the tracks make more sense in the context of the entire LP).

Skip 'em tracks: none.

Final Score: 9/10. There might be some nostalgia for this being my first mix LP, but the bottom line is if you like The Chemical Brothers, you're going to like this LP.

No comments:

Post a Comment