Crate-Digging: The Chemical Brothers – Believe EP

The original intention of this column was to listen to all the records in my collection in alphabetical order by album title. I’ve abandoned that for the most part. But I’ll come back to it periodically.

(bootleg, 2005)

Apparently there’s this “crew” out there that takes on albums by electronica acts and creates unofficial remix compilations, then makes them available for free download. Ooh, neato, right? Yep. I’m not too familiar with the background of project (each album has a landing page but little information about those behind it), and there isn’t a ton of material, but some of what exists is worth your time, at least for the curiosity of it. I haven’t cared enough about Always Outsiders, Never Outdone (a reworking of The Prodigy’s Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, which, let’s face it, yawn) to check it out, but I’ve spun Flip the Switch (The Chemical Brothers’ Push the Button remix album) and Sounds Like Silver (LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver remix). This EP is kind of an outlier, as it’s simply one song reworked several times by a few artists, rather than the reimagining of an entire album. I’ve always loved deep cuts and unique reinterpretations of songs on a small scale like this (although to be fair, songs that are already in some form of electronic genre tend not to be as exciting when remixed), and free is always good (although donate to the linked charities if you can!), so there’s a lot of upside and no risk. Whaddya say? Want to listen to this with me?

I’ll understand if you don’t. The Chemical Brothers’ sound is a bit outdated, very 1990s, and we’re certainly as a (critical) culture not feeling terribly nostalgic about big beat and rap-rock … yet. (God help us when we do. Heck, I say that now.) But give it a chance – you didn’t like broccoli the first time you tried it, did you? Now you can’t get enough of it. This is similar. And while neither broccoli nor electronica make you cool, each offers similar nutritional value – broccoli, of course, is packed with vitamins, and electronica is packed with the elements that make up the genre’s offshoots’ better acts. So how does “Believe” fare in the hands of the lesser-known and possibly cooler minor leaguers on display here?

Short answer – meh, OK, and poorly. It starts off promisingly enough, as the “Belief, Elektric Cowboy” mix sounds like the soundtrack to a space battle, which is never a bad thing. We’re talking Hi-NRG too, as the raver kids say, glowsticky club candy to lose your mind to. It’s DM without the I, though, a one-trick pony of high-BPM joyride through a half-baked science fiction mindwarp. A reminder, then, that the Chems are essentially the James Camerons of electronic music, and it’s a little easier to see why this remix does what it does. The “GHP Louder Mix” is a similar concoction, similiarly space battle–esque, although to a lesser conflict. Lesser space battle, lesser results. It’s simple math.

But who freaking let the Bass Jamz producers in here? Remember those monstrosities? CDs of nothing but thudding bass tracks to showcase how tricked out your car’s stereo was littered the 1990s landscape, not to mention the used CD stores who were stupid enough to stock them. This music blasted from wannabe Pimp My Ride–mobiles, “music” simply for the sake of thug narcissism. Do you feel me, then, dawg, when I’m completely flabbergasted that such poor quality production is allowed near music with a semblance of respectability? The “Poj Mix” and “Act of Dog’s Self Doubt Mix” (“Act of Dog”? Really?) would fit comfortably on one of these compilations. Bass Jamz. Pshaw.

The real winner here though is “Team 9’s Chopper Mix,” which changes things up a bit by slicing the BPM of the original in half and packing the tune with guitar samples and other odd embellishments. It’s also only 4 minutes long, giving it the most pop-song runtime on the EP. In fact, if you were looking for a single to push, the Team 9 remix would be it. Rounding out the EP is the “Ryan Durkin Mix” – and it’s only 25 seconds long, making me think there’s something wrong with the downloaded file. So Mr. Durkin, you get an “Incomplete” for the day. Team 9’s contribution notwithstanding, you may want to run as far away from this EP as you can.

Is this really worth checking out? Not at all. But if you have some time to kill, there are worse things to do, and there’s at least one decent treatment of “Believe” on here. I’ve had intermittent trouble with this website, and it has actually gone down completely in the past, so get on it while you can, if you want to.

RIYL: The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Underworld

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