on 10 November 2000
Bobby Gillespie said recently that too much dance music is just functional, and he's right. It's to readymade for Ibiza, to get pissed and pull birds. This album, then, is all the more welcome. It's an incredibly full-sounding record. It's got anger, edge and purpose. A method to its madness, if you like.
Not so much like dance-infused rock, more like punk-infested chaos. It quite often brings to mind the atmosphere of a blaxploitation film, with its' smooth-talkin' jive and crazed funky drummer backbeats and marijuana-slow drum patterns. Guest vocalists such as Bobby Gillespie and Martina Toppley-Bird are an integral part of the sound, giving venom and fire to lyrics that may otherwise just be meaningless drug-infused rants. They are not just beautiful wallpaper. In other words, they are part of the record, particularly in the case of the lovely, Toppley-Bird sung "Zero Tolerance". The tracks which don't have a lead vocal on them, use dialogue samples (heavily) to give them soul and gravitas, although this is not "Readymade dance music, just add samples", this album has gravitas anyway. It seems to be saying the world's a terrible place and we have to do something about it, but these are not empty, Phil-Collins-type sentiments. Holmes's wish is to destroy the world and start anew. This album, then, is all the more welcome. It grooves along at a slow, brooding pace, occasionally, such as in the case of "Sick City", exploding into out-and-out punk violence, before reducing the heat to threatening simmer level, just as suddenly, never quite clearing the air. It gives plenty of thought to everything it does. It refuses to pad itself out with meaningless beats'n'banter.
Like Bobby Gillespie, Holmes portrays the world as he sees it. He does not try to glorify it. In "Sick City", he revels in it and soaks it all in. On the stoned lullaby "69 Police" - which after repeated listening, stick its neck out as the album's stand-out track - it's almost like he's taking us on a guided tour of parts of the world evil corporations do not want us to see. "69 Police" is a kind of transition piece. There are moments too of great lightness. The record opens with "Live From The Peppermint Store", the funny sampling of a kids' TV show, before the madness and anger of "Compared To What". These shifts in tempo and mood give the record a balance lacking in the likes of Underworld. Holmes is at pains to stress that this world is a violent one, where happiness is only glimpsed briefly. There's a creeping thread of paranoia running through the album's fifty-four minutes. The seeds are sown, Tarantino-style, in "Live From The Peppermint Store". That's probably why Bobby Gillespie's here. He too sings of a world where paranoia and corruption are parts of everyday life. There is a great flow and cohesiveness on this album, everything sounds completely different. This album skips the death trap of many dance records. Its' a soul groove like "Compared To What" one moment and a punky blast like "Sick City" the next.
So then, to summarise. It's a dance record while being a great soul record and a blast of aggressive punky air, sometimes one after the other, but more often all at the same time. It's not a record that kicks into the taste buds instantly, you have to listen to it time and time again, to fully enjoy and experience it. It's got pop hooks like "69 Police" and "Zero Tolerance" to snag your attention at first and a whole variety of different sounds, feelings and vibes, to ensure you stay, at least for a while. Unlike most DJs of the '88 Acid House vintage, who have either stagnated, burned out, or become whores to the Top 40 dollar, Holmes has never lost his maverick streak. But only now, has it fully paid off. This record is an out-an-out masterpiece.