Pop Review: The essential beat of forgotten heroes
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Tuesday 11 November 1997
It's about sweat and the beat. 's debut album Homework was a smooth mixture of funk, techno and house, a summation of influences from the Seventies to the Nineties. But homework's for the home. In a venue so rammed you can barely move at all, live only want you to dance. The notoriously publicity-shy French duo make some concessions to their physical presence - swooping spotlights, and back-projections which suggest the tacky glamour that gives their album sleeve its wit. But where the Chemical Brothers make some attempt to replicate the diversity of their records on stage, have stripped their sound to its essentials. Its the beat, the same beat, over and over.
It's all the crowd want. At first, there's some vague expectation that this may be a gig in the old sense. People clap between the first few tracks. They clap harder when the Kraftwerkian pop of the duo's signature hit, "Da Funk", cuts in. But its chords are soon smashed by beats, recognition fragmented by the rumble. What the crowd really roar for, what toy with, is the return, never refused, to the most basic, chest-thudding techno heartbeat. Synth-squelches and ray-blasts embellish it; a concrete- grinder rumble gives it texture. The beat itself slows as if the whole night is winding down, speeds suddenly, lurches off course when a stylus is provocatively switched. The crowd cheer every variation, like a matador passing the cape. But they know that, every time, they'll get the real beat back.
True to their distrust of stardom, have relegated themselves to DJs, anonymous in spinning their records, leaving the crowd to take up the slack. Their much-quoted wish for the warmth of Brian Wilson in their music is only incidental in their efforts. But in the pleasure and energy of the crowd, it floods through. If you care to glance at , they look transported, too.
There's a brief return to gig values near the end. 's other hit, "Around the World", is played with more respect than "La Funk", and the words of its "chorus" are met with delight, suggesting the pop tradition of listening to songs hasn't withered in techno brains yet. even layer in the squall of a dying guitar solo, a nod to Hendrix or someone. Then they flash up the faces of their heroes, mostly forgotten black men, whom they don't want to insult by taking stardom themselves. Perhaps they're right; in the end, it didn't matter who was making us move.
's tour ended at The Event, Brighton last night
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