Where To Start With... The Chemical Brothers
Along with acts like The Prodigy and Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers have done more to change the face of dance music over the last couple of decades than almost anyone else you could think of. Blending elements of house music, hip-hop and even rock, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons have been instrumental in bringing dance anthems from clubs and outdoor raves to headline slots at festivals like Glastonbury and Coachella.
Starting out as DJs playing the back rooms of Manchester pubs and club nights like Naked Under Leather, Rowlands and Simons graduated to remixing tracks by the likes of Leftfield and Lionrock, working under the name The Dust Brothers and taking up a residency at London's legendary Heavenly Sunday Social Club.
After the American production duo of the same name raised objections (the guys behind records like Beck's Odelay and The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique), they renamed themselves The Chemical Brothers and released their debut, Exit Planet Dust, in 1995.
While their debut earned them plenty of admirers and even a couple of Top 40 hits, it was with their sophomore LP Dig Your Own Hole that they really hit the big time. The album yielded two Number One singles in the UK and became their first LP to top the UK Album Chart – a feat they have repeated with every single subsequent album they've released ever since (with the exception of the 2010s Further, which was disqualified by the Official Charts Company as the result of a promotional competition which offered fans the chance to win an iPad).
During that time the duo also established themselves as one of the most impressive live acts around, on the dance scene or any other, becoming regular fixtures at mainstream festivals the world over and helping to bring dance music to a much wider audience.
This week the duo unveil their ninth studio album No Geography, which contains 10 brand new tracks including the singles 'MAH', 'Free Yourself', 'Got To Keep On' and 'We've Got To Try'.
You can find the Michel Gondry-directed video for 'Got To Keep On' below, beneath that we've picked five of the key tracks from the last two decades as a reminder of just how consistently brilliant Tom and Ed have been over the last 25 years. Enjoy...
Tom Rowlands was once quoted in an interview with Pitchfork as saying of their early output “I was trying to copy a Public Enemy record, but I wasn't up to it, so it came out like it did”. Despite the self-deprecation on offer with that statement, the opening track on the duo's debut album does indicate the influence of hip-hop on their sound. With its iconic “the Brothers gonna work it out” hook and a bpm count slightly too slow to be a full-on house track, 'Leave Home' - along with 'Chemical Beats' - set the template for what was to become known as Big Beat and was copied and expanded upon by countless dance music acts for the rest of the decade.
'Block Rockin' Beats'
There absolutely, positively cannot be a list of The Chemical Brothers' best tracks without this stone-cold classic from their second album, Dig Your Own Hole. With its stuttering bassline, Schoolly D vocal sample and blistering beats, it still stands up as one of their best ever tracks and is a regular set closer for their live shows.
'It Began In Afrika'
This epic, sprawling cut from their 2002 album Come With Us is one of the most primal sounding things the duo have ever produced and it was a huge dancefloor hit on its release. Full of tribal, percussive rhythms and a mesmerising vocal sample, it was almost never included as Rowlands had mixed feelings about it, but it's still one of our favourites.
Taken from Push The Button, 'Galvanize' features the inimitable vocals of A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip and it's probably no coincidence that they've asked him back for Born In The Echoes. With its angular, eastern-flavoured string samples and chugging beats, it's as good as anything they've ever done.
Our final pick is taken from the duo's most recent album Born in the Echoes and is another to feature Q-Tip on vocal duties. Based around a pulsating bassline, the track is one of the album's standout moments and shows that Tom and Ed still have an innate skill for creating huge tunes that work as well on the radio as they do on the dancefloor.
No Geography is available in hmv stores now