Jan 14


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#747, 12th October 1996

setting This is a story about the twilight of innovation in British independent music. Oasis in Summer 1996 were impossibly big, big beyond almost all yardsticks of British rock bigness. They had the fanbase and the opportunity to take their audience anywhere the band cared to go – and the motive, too, with critics enthralled by their power but often sniffy about their range. With his hand on the tiller of British rock, with the chance to put anything he wanted at the top of the charts, Gallagher lent his star power to the Chemical Brothers, and made what amounts to a big beat remix of “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Stop the clocks, as Oasis later put it.

It’s a harsh story, and perhaps it sounds like a reasonable judgement on the existence of “Setting Sun”, or the motivation behind it. But a story is all it is. It leaves out how the record actually sounds and feels, and it leaves out the world “Setting Sun” exists in.

“Tomorrow Never Knows” is one of those Beatles tracks that’s become a touchstone for inventiveness and originality. Certainly everyone involved with “Setting Sun” revered it. Its invention, though, is there for a purpose. Like a lot of Lennon’s later 60s songs, “Tomorrow Never Knows” is a manual for change. Like “Imagine” specifically, it’s a series of instructions set to music that brings to life what those instructions promise – zen calm and respite in “Imagine”’s case, ego-death and psychic transformation in “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Placed at the end of Revolver, “Tomorrow Never Knows” sounds like a door opening, its phased and looped backing piping the listeners of Britain through into a new world, and not just for pop.

That door, once opened, can’t be re-opened – you can’t just make something psychedelic and say, this is our “Tomorrow Never Knows”. You can match the Beatles’ speed but not their acceleration. But I don’t think that’s what “Setting Sun” is doing. The question the Chemical Brothers are answering here isn’t “How do you make “Tomorrow Never Knows” in a world where “Tomorrow Never Knows” already exists?”. It’s “How do you make “Tomorrow Never Knows” in a world where “Tomorrow Never Knows” worked?”

That’s obviously an oversimplification, in that the world Lennon or the Beatles wished for isn’t at all the world we got. People didn’t become transcendent creatures of total awareness upon hearing Revolver – and I doubt a cantankerous sod like John Lennon would have enjoyed it much if they had. What people did do was start to take drugs in culture-warping quantities. They did this not because of “Tomorrow Never Knows” or any other song – it was the trend the song was surfing, and the Beatles had the talent, imagination and knack for theatre to package it better than almost anybody else. But from the mid-60s onwards, drug-taking became a part of mainstream youth culture, and it’s stayed that way ever since.

There’s your difference. “Tomorrow Never Knows” is built for a world in which very few young people take drugs. “Setting Sun”, its descendent, parallel or perhaps its tulpa, presumes a world in which almost all of them do, with all its unintended consequences.

What makes sense in that world? The Chemical Brothers locate their answer at the moment hedonism shades into chaos. “Setting Sun” might not be the noisiest Number One, but it’s one of the most aggressive and turbulent – great chthonic shudders of bass, a drum loop that seems to be trying to punch a hole in the track, snatches of drone on endless spin cycle, the whole song strafed by feedback squeals then swamped in machine-goblin chatter as soon as the singer tries to communicate. Any attempt by the song to be a song is undercut – the breakdown sounds like an equipment failure and reboot, and Gallagher’s vocals are treated and flattened into irrelevance. (Apparently he performs “Setting Sun” as an actual song live, which is hard to imagine – the lyrics are flotsam and the track’s main weak point is his attempt to corral the noise into a tune.)

We wouldn’t be talking about this song without Noel Gallagher, and he adds resonance to its Beatley overtones, but as a track this isn’t his show. The Chemical Brothers had just supported Oasis at Knebworth, and like that band they were tied up with Britpop but also not completely of it. They were remixers by appointment to the new pop stars, and their sweat-drenched club residencies provided Britpop’s hedonistic soap operatics with an apt backbeat. But by now Britpop is falling apart in a bloody-nosed mess – “Setting Sun” the perfect soundtrack, really – and the Chemical Brothers’ main context is coming to the fore: big beat.

The clue to big beat’s failings is in the name – when you bring a loop that far forward in the mix and get it to dominate proceedings, it tends to sound static, even leaden, over the course of a whole song. It’s just variable enough to not reach hypnotic, just repetitive enough to need a lot of other stuff happening. So a lot of big beat sounded – and was – crunchingly unsubtle next to techno or drum and bass, and far more beery than psychedelic.

“Setting Sun” wanders dangerously close to this trap – and other big beat Number Ones will march gleefully into it – but chaos wins out. The mood of the track is more speedfreak psychosis than a bad trip, but the video makes it clear that something nasty is happening, imagining raving as a kind of demonic possession or manifestation of a second self.

You can see “Setting Sun” as a turning point for its makers, a farewell of sorts. The Chemical Brothers are about to become the kind of dance act that gets five No.1 LPs on the trot – they will rarely sound this unfettered or vicious again. And “Setting Sun” – though Noel Gallagher is the only member involved – is the last we’ll see of the early, snarling Oasis. But the record reaches far further back than the early 90s. It’s the second No.1 this year to reference 1966 – and where the Lightning Seeds promised it could be like that again, “Setting Sun” shuts that possibility down. To live in the world 1966 made is not to try and get back there: this thrilling cacophony is the sound of a time machine crashing.



  1. 1
    Tom on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Another footnote: “Almost all of them [took drugs]” is a deliberate exaggeration – actually, even the most popular drug (weed) was probably consumed by well under half of ‘young people’. But as Matthew Collin suggested in 1997’s Altered State, drugs – and E in particular – had infected UK culture root and branch: British youth culture was a drug culture, or at least an intoxication culture, more wholeheartedly than pretty much any time before.

  2. 2
    flahr on 15 Jan 2014 #

    “crunchingly unsubtle”

    You say that like it’s a bad thing!

    “unfettered […] vicious […] cacophony”

    You, correctly, say that like it’s a good thing.


  3. 3
    Bowiesongs (@bowiesongs) on 15 Jan 2014 #

    “Tomorrow Never Knows is for a world in which few young people take drugs,Setting Sun a world in which almost all do” http://t.co/25eYMWAtZH

  4. 4
    Ned Raggett on 15 Jan 2014 #

    (Apparently he performs “Setting Sun” as an actual song live, which is hard to imagine – the lyrics are flotsam and the track’s main weak point is his attempt to corral the noise into a tune.)

    And…here you go. Or not go.


  5. 5
    anto on 15 Jan 2014 #

    All things considered the best no.1 Noel Gallagher has ever been involved with – this really is disturbed psychedelia. It’s a clash of several sounds at once and made a striking chart-topper.
    I was never that keen on big beat and much preferred The Chemical Brothers earlier on. The one they did with Tim Burgess – ‘Life is Sweet’ with it’s charming air of summery optimism offers a total contrast to ‘Setting Son’.

  6. 6
    swanstep on 15 Jan 2014 #

    I’d never seen the vid. for this until just now, and feel like ‘*Now* I get it.’ Heard as a track on Did Your Own Hole I always found SS pretty skippable (and not a patch on, e.g., a bunny and ‘Where Do I begin’): abrasive and tuneless enough to be be physically hard to stick with and (as Tom suggests) neither minimal enough to be hypnotic nor aggessive or inventively varied enough to be exciting. The vid., however, solves these problems by adding enough interesting content so that the abrasive sonics aren’t an issue and the whole thing feels interesting and exciting, a monster even. For me, then, given the vid, this is an:

  7. 7
    Billy Hicks on 15 Jan 2014 #

    This was an absolute, definite 10 for years and years for me – I’d always sort-of known it thanks to its quick ubiquity on television commercials, but when I really started to listen to it in the mid-2000s I was astonished at how groundbreaking this sound was, believing that the Chemical Brothers had single-handedly re-invented dance music forever just through this one, completely original handcraft of music.

    The day I first heard ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ was a sad one. And indeed since then the amount of songs of my era I’ve found out that blatantly rip-off older music has bruised and battered my love for them, but in this case it still remains strong and like Tom I’d still give this a 9. An example of something that could be released today and *still* sound absolutely spine-chillingly current and gorgeous, and my favourite bit? The moment two minutes in where it goes BEOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWURURURURURUR, for lack of a better word. Transports me somewhere else, for a few brief seconds every time.

    Indeed it transports me to Hyde Park in the summer of 2011, when I finally saw them live for the first time. My drink, unknown to me, had been spiked with MDMA, and so occurred my first – and, to date, only – major high. Both this and the how-the-hell-is-it-not-bunnied ’99 classic ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’ soundtracked a feeling of wild, slightly confusing but glorious abandon, dancing more energetically than I ever have before or since and feeling like this day, this moment was the peak of everything the last 22 years had built up to. Then I believe I passed out, but eh, was fun while it lasted. Nothing that would convince me to ever have another try, although had it been 1991 rather than 2011 – and I were born twenty years earlier – I imagine it would have been a different story.

  8. 8
    Kinitawowi on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Maybe I was just too much of a boring shit at the time, maybe sleepy seaside towns in north west Norfolk weren’t conducive to drug culture, maybe I was asleep, but somehow it completely escaped my notice at the time that this even made Number One, which speaks volumes for how little impact it had on me.

    Shorn of drug culture overtones that were completely irrelevant to me, and Beatles references that I’ve never cared about, this is just so much row. Even at 16 I wasn’t interested; at 33 I’m just bored. I guess “almost all young people” had to leave somebody out. 4 at most.

  9. 9
    Ed on 15 Jan 2014 #

    ‘Dig Your Own Hole’, the album on which ‘Setting Sun’ appeared the following year, is an absolute belter: the apotheosis of Big Beat, and a convincing justification for the existence of the genre. And was there an answer, or a bit of a clutching at past glories, in ‘Dig Out Your Soul’, more than a decade later?

    Some of it is bunnied, so I’ll leave that alone, and maybe it is a bit early for the rest of the album, too. But Swanstep’s mention of the video for SS reminded me of this one, which I think is even better, and probably my favourite work of any kind by current Oscar hopeful Spike Jonze.

    ‘Elektrobank’: http://www.mtv.com/videos/the-chemical-brothers/307797/elektrobank.jhtml

  10. 10
    @matoswk75 on 15 Jan 2014 #

    TOTAL FIRE from @tomewing on “Setting Sun.” http://t.co/gTJ0J0NpIn

  11. 11
    taDOW on 15 Jan 2014 #

    maybe my fave work by former oscar hopeful sofia coppola as well. call it postmodernism, call it retromania, call it the return of swinging london but this taps into that fin de siecle ‘hey man remember the 20th century?’ thing that became more and more pronounced as the 90s progressed. big beat never swung enough for me to love it w/o reservation and it’s part of that ‘dance music as another kind of rock music’ a la brostep that’s so so much less appealing to me than ‘dance music as another kind of pop music’ (edm, hip-house) or ‘dance music as another kind of r&b’ (disco disco disco) but for a moment there it was ludicrously fun, the best kind of dumb and obv. 9 for me as well.

  12. 12
    Alan not logged in on 15 Jan 2014 #

    flahr @2 said exactly what I wanted to add. Billy @7, i love finding out music is referencing older music! the ‘debt burden’ of imitation that Setting Sun owes (to TNK) is not all that different to incorporating distinctive actual samples, is it? (Maybe it is.) But if not, and you like “Hey Boy, Hey Girl” don’t listen to “The Roof is on Fire” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0ikNY3712g

  13. 13
    Mark M on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Sometime that summer, presumably while I was avoiding working on my MA dissertation, I heard I something very loud coming from the vicinity of Crystal Palace Park just up the road. ‘Is there a gig today,’ I wondered. But it sounded clearer than gigs in either the bowl or the stadium. Then the same song started again. ‘Very loud soundcheck?’ And again… I’m not sure whether I worked it out then, or months later when I actually saw the video. These days, it would’ve taken two seconds on Twitter to know what was going on, and I might have gone up to see whether I could’ve had a glimpse at the video shoot.

    This is not one of my favourite Chemical Brothers’ hits – possibly because of Noel, but maybe just because of its attempt at being a song.

  14. 14
    Alan not logged in on 15 Jan 2014 #

    short compilation of clips (inc Setting Sun) using crystal palace https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UO5mrT-keU

  15. 15
    Tom on 15 Jan 2014 #

    My stag do started at Crystal Palace Park (as some commenters here will remember!). It was not as wild as the video.

  16. 16
    leveret on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Were the Chemical Brothers the originators of the featured rock/indie vocalist on dance tracks? There seemed to be a lot of this in the late 90s, and the first one I can remember is the Tim Burgess-featuring Life Is Sweet, which preceded this.

    This seemed to be a point at which the indie scene adopted a kind of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ attitude to dance music. There were less of the indie-dance hybrids that were common in the early 90s (Jesus Jones, Flowered Up, etc.) and more of an acceptance even by musically conservative acts like Noel Gallagher and Oasis that their fans were quite likely to be into less indie-fied dance music too.

  17. 17
    glue_factory on 15 Jan 2014 #

    My problem with this record is that, even though they’re remaking Tomorrow Never Knows for a world where “almost all” young people take drugs, they’d already done that by playing the Beatles track, in the middle of their sets, surrounded by minimal German techno and Depth Charge records. The context remakes it and always meant this track seemed superfluous to me.

    Or probably that’s just the indie snob in me saying I was there first.

  18. 18
    To Mewing! (@tomewing) on 15 Jan 2014 #

    A morning repost for Popular on the Chemical Brothers’ “Setting Sun” http://t.co/wztx2P1UYT

  19. 19
    Alan not logged in on 15 Jan 2014 #

    @16 Bjork and Barney Sumner feature on 808 State’s Ex:El in 1990/91

  20. 20
    Matt DC on 15 Jan 2014 #

    This still sounds enormous to this day – from this point on the Chemical Brothers went down a path of toytown homage (check Let Forever Be from the next album) but this is just so BIG, and Noel’s voice works in the midst of all the chaos in a way that it never does elsewhere. It would have been best as a glorious one-off, from here on seemingly every dance artist who made an album starting roping in established indie singers but none of them ever made anything as spectacular as this record.

  21. 21
    Izzy on 15 Jan 2014 #

    1: “Almost all of them [took drugs]” is a deliberate exaggeration – actually, even the most popular drug (weed) was probably consumed by well under half of ‘young people’.

    I appreciate the clarification and I know what you’re getting at, but in this case I despise the universalisation of that which isn’t universal. The music press was full of it at the time, and dubious stats like a million people dropping e every weekend. When you’re growing up and you don’t necessarily have many trustworthy windows into young adult life, or at least a young adult life shaped by music, that kind of thing has an effect. At least one young man would’ve made better choices and got to know himself better and earlier without such pernicious chatter.

    16: 808 State using Bjork and Bernard Sumner in 1991 is the first I can think of.

  22. 22
    Alan not logged in on 15 Jan 2014 #

    I think I’m right that people usually attribute Beatles songs as more John or more Paul, and as my Beatles knowledge is very superficial, I don’t know what people say in regard to TNK. Anyone?

  23. 23
    Tom on 15 Jan 2014 #

    TNK is almost completely John, as I understand it. My usual reference point (Ian MacDonald) is under a heap of junk in my spare room though.

  24. 24
    Tom on 15 Jan 2014 #

    #21 you’re right, even with the footnote the language is still too sloppy. I’ve gone back and amended it to get nearer the point I wanted to make – “has to exist in a world where almost all of them do” is now “presumes a world where almost all of them do” – which hopefully a) better reflects the very real mainstreaming of drug taking and b) allows room for the media exaggeration of that reality.

  25. 25
    @danhancox on 15 Jan 2014 #

    “the sound of a time machine crashing” http://t.co/6zaKX5Ygn7 interesting @tomewing piece on loops and endings, via 1996 and Setting Sun

  26. 26
    @mrleeward on 15 Jan 2014 #

    “You can match the Beatles’ speed but not their acceleration”. Brilliant piece on ‘Setting Sun’ in Popular. http://t.co/Ql209U8g6k

  27. 27
    Erithian on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Nice understatement here on the Beatles Wiki re TNK: “Lennon told George Martin that he wanted the vocals to sound like one hundred chanting Tibetan monks, which was a difficult task for Martin with the equipment available.”

  28. 28
    Rory on 15 Jan 2014 #

    After our discussion of the previous number one I feel my awareness fragmenting, breaking free of the specific moments represented by the time these songs were number one in the UK. We’re now in General-Late-’90s territory, when I heard some songs earlier and some later than they’ll appear here, and it all turned into a mishmash of alt-rock, big beat and electronica. Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream…

    So it was with the Chemical Brothers. My gateway drug to big beat was the Prodigy, and it was their albums and the Propellerheads’ that defined it for me in the late ’90s. I did pick up the Bros’ Exit Planet Dust in ’98, but it didn’t click for me straight away; it took the I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Bunnied “Hey Boy Hey Girl” (right on, Billy @7) to open the doors of perception, and not until I bought Surrender in 2001, a few months before moving to the UK. From there the rest followed in a glorious rush, peaking with Come With Us, the first of their albums that I personally helped send to number one here. The Chemical Brothers were possibly my favourite band of the 2000s; certainly one of my top three.

    Did I hear “Setting Sun” back in the day, and just not have an ear for it yet? I can’t remember. As far as I’m aware, the single didn’t do much on the Australian charts, but I presume it got some Triple J airplay. Certainly I would have recognised it as an homage to “Tomorrow Never Knows” right away, as by then Revolver was firmly my favourite Beatles album.

    To quote the deathless lyrics of Mr Noel Gallagher, whatever. The point is that for me this was more or less an album track, from an album somewhat overshadowed in my listening by newer releases, and assessed in that context. And in that context, it wasn’t my favourite; the TNK influence wasn’t a problem for me, nor were Gallagher’s vocals (even hearing them a few years after all Oasis illusions had been shattered) – I just preferred a few other album tracks to this one. So from an album I’d give an 8, this is pretty much squarely in the middle… which makes it an 8, I guess.

    I agree with swanstep @6 that the video is excellent, and can see how it would have made the song even more of an event. I’d also add that the cover of the single is similarly excellent, the best we’ve seen on Popular since, let’s see, at least “Country House”.

  29. 29
    Rory on 15 Jan 2014 #

    P.S. Superlative writing in this entry, Tom, especially that “What makes sense” paragraph.

  30. 30
    Simon on 15 Jan 2014 #

    @Tom Is the opening sentence an Adam Curtis tribute/pastiche?

  31. 31
    Alex on 15 Jan 2014 #

    This is a full 10. That rare beast, a No.1 that’s actually interesting.

  32. 32
    Alex on 15 Jan 2014 #

    It’s got to be telling that the public were able to put the Spices, “Ready Or Not”, and this as successive No.1s. I think you can observe periods of greater or lesser variety, and this was one of the most varied and diverse ones.

  33. 33
    Tom on 15 Jan 2014 #

    #29 ssssort of a remnant of one, i.e. I considered putting in “But this was a fantasy.” at one point. There is a good history of indie and Britpop to be told through a Curtisian lens – the unintended consequences of ideas and all that. And indeed I had a stab at part of it once: http://pitchfork.com/features/poptimist/7865-poptimist-33/

  34. 34
    Tom on 15 Jan 2014 #

    (but also the first sentence is me dicking about and trying to misdirect, whereas w/Curtis it’s usually a fair summary)

  35. 35
    Gavin Wright on 15 Jan 2014 #

    If you’d have asked me in 1996 who my favourite band was, I’d have said the Chemical Brothers, without hesitation. I was 15 and knew next to nothing about dance culture or psychedelia or hip-hop but their music was a route into all of these things and more. When ‘Setting Sun’ came out it felt like they were on a roll following the first album and the ‘Loops of Fury’ EP and I was over the moon when it reached #1 (especially as it replaced ‘BAT’ at the top).

    It’s one of their more abrasive tracks (and it sounded like nothing else on the radio at the time) but it’s those divebombing screeches and thundering drums that provide the pop hooks rather than, as Tom notes, Noel’s vocal melody.

    As for the Beatles, I liked them at the time but was only familiar with the singles and my mum’s cassettes of Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. When I eventually heard ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ about three years later I was surprised by the similarity but it didn’t really diminish my enjoyment of ‘Setting Sun’ at all – I still think it’s an inspired and distinctively ’90s take on the original idea.

    So this is a (9) for me too – ‘Life Is Sweet’ with Tim Burgess (as mentioned by anto #5) would be a (10), for what it’s worth.

  36. 36
    thefatgit on 15 Jan 2014 #

    I come to one of my favourite #1’s of the ’90s, delighted by the critical consensus of the comments so far.

    What made The Chemical Brothers stand out from Prodigy and Underworld and your F*t B*y Sl*m was the sheer depth of their sonic architecture. Not only this track, but most of “Dig Your Own Hole” was absolutely chock full of wonderful noise. And it wasn’t overloaded or laden down with superfluous bleeps or burps, but interwoven, rich in texture. The way the dischordant parts of “Setting Sun” feel as natural as the dischordant parts of Peter Brotzmann’s “Machine Gun” and as equally disturbing and unnatural as “The Amine β Ring” better known to us as Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music”. The constant drone that acts as glue and holds it all together, is the looped sample from “Tomorrow Never Knows”. If Rosie of this parish is present, did you have “Setting Sun” in mind when you asserted more than once on Popular that what we come to know as dance music, post-Jack Your Body, began with TNK?. To some extent I think your assertion is correct, but it feels like you’re using TNK as some sort of straw-man to insist that any dance music post-JYB could never be as good. That’s the point where I tend to disagree.

    And “Setting Sun” wasn’t even the best track on DYOH. That accolade, IMVHO, went to the aforementioned “Elektrobank”. Had that particular track made it to the top, I would be telling anyone who cared to listen that “this goes to 11” to paraphrase Nigel Tufnel. Why? Not just the Spike Jonze video, which is excellent btw, but the psychnado of bass that sucks the unwary listener off the planet and deposits what’s left of them in an A&E ward somewhere to the left of the Cat’s Eye Nebula.

  37. 37
    lonepilgrim on 15 Jan 2014 #

    the processed vocal and screeching sounds provide a superficial link back to TNK for me but there are more things that are different than similar to my ears (not a bad thing, by the way) such as the insistent moebius strip of the beat and deep bass (one might describe them as…um..big).
    It’s fascinating how every so often the UK public is prepared to put records at Number 1 such as ‘Paint it Black’, ‘Two Tribes’ and this that make flirting with (self) destruction of one kind or another so compelling.

  38. 38
    swanstep on 15 Jan 2014 #

    @24, Tom. I think you’re digging yourself a hole (heh!) by insisting on glossing the normalization of youthful drug experiences statistically (‘almost all’). That then flatly contradicts your footnote explaining that there weren’t majorities even for pot use. Normalization/becoming part of the mainstream is all that you need, i.e., do write ‘“Tomorrow Never Knows” is built for a world in which youthful drug-taking is a fringe activity. “Setting Sun”, its descendent, parallel or perhaps its tulpa, presumes a world in which that activity’s completely normal.’ (Compare gays and lesbians etc. becoming completely mainstream/normal parts of life while still being small minorities.) There’s no reason at all to believe that the relevant notions of normality can be reduced to purely statistical ideas, in addition a battery of (at least) non-negative attitudes of various sorts are crucial: non-disapproval, non-surprise, lack of animus, etc..

  39. 39
    MikeMCSG on 15 Jan 2014 #

    I saw this as a cynical move by Gallagher to sidestep the potentially lethal “dadrock” label. I’d wager there isn’t much dance music on his iPod. Or maybe it was all a misunderstanding and he thought he’d be helping them re-make the Jam’s fourth album ?

    The music ? Absolutely incomprehensible to me. As it was meant to be.

  40. 40
    Tom on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Not sure that “almost all” is meant statistically any more than Murray Lachlan Young’s* “Simply Everyone’s Taking Cocaine” is.

    *The Million Pound Poet

  41. 41
    Cumbrian on 15 Jan 2014 #

    39: Or, you know, Noel might have been a teenager/twentysomething during the Acid House era and might actually like dance music.

    Here’s a quote:

    “Every night from ’87 until the band formed in ’91, I was there [at The Haçienda]. That was my life and I loved it.”

    Here’s another:

    “One of the best nights I’ve had out recently was at Coachella. We were up till seven o’clock in the morning, listening to those classic house tunes, going, ‘Why did music have to change? Why couldn’t it have stayed like this?’ Then someone said, It’s because of you! And I was, ‘Yeah, sorry about that’.”

    It is possible for people to like stuff that they don’t or can’t (or don’t feel they have the skills to) produce properly – see Primal Scream’s most successful records. At this point in his career, Noel could do anything – teaming up with the best people he could find to continue his ripping off of The Beatles is not about evading Dadrock, imo. He’s doing something he wants to do in an environment that will make it successful artistically and calling back to stuff that he loved as a kid. The idea that he only listened to The Beatles, The Stones, The Jam, The Smiths and The Pistols is a fairly selective reading – and pretty unfair. I’d wager there is plenty of house music on his iPod, just like there’s a load of stuff on my iPod that I liked when I was a teenager (in fact, almost certainly like the majority of people with an iPod/music collection have lots of music they listened to in their formative years). This is one of the attractions of Noel – he’s a person that behaves much of the time like I imagine loads of people do. He actually is an everyman.

    I don’t know what to say about this record at the minute. I need to order my thoughts on it first I think. I err on the high side of the mark scheme though.

  42. 42
    Tom on 15 Jan 2014 #

    From my dim memories Liam is the dance-music hating Gallagher.

  43. 43
    Mark M on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Re 38 etc What’s I remember is that a lot of the people who took drugs were absolutely convinced that everyone in their (my) generation were doing the same. But I suspect that doesn’t make them that unusual – a lot of people seem to believe that everyone else is basically like/doing the same thing as them.

  44. 44
    James BC on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Liam has featured on dance tracks as well, Death In Vegas being one example. That doesn’t mean he didn’t dismiss it in interviews, of course.

  45. 45
    Cumbrian on 15 Jan 2014 #

    43: Ha. Fits very well with my comment on something totally different #41. Of course, I could be talking rubbish there about what people have on their iPods – but it feels intuitively right, whereas I never really bought into the idea that everyone was doing drugs when I was a teenager.

  46. 46
    Cumbrian on 15 Jan 2014 #

    44: The Liam DiV track warrants listening to in that case, because, to my ear, Scorpio Rising sounds more like latter day Oasis than anything that could be played in a dance nightclub.

  47. 47
    mapman132 on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Wonderfully bizarre and wonderfully disturbing at the same time, I’d give this 8/10. It’s worth noting that this is one of those songs that I don’t know that I’ve ever heard outside of the context of its video. I wonder if it would have the same effect without the visuals.

    BTW, anyone know who the girl in the video is? Is it just me, or do Chemical Brothers videos tend to have female protagonists?

    This was the CB’s only Hot 100 hit, peaking at #80. Not that their later music has been completely ignored over here, however. Their remaining bunny got radio play and I’ve seen at least 3 or 4 of their later videos on MTV and other channels. The CB track most Americans would recognize, even if they don’t realize it, would have to be “Galvanize” due to its use in beer commercials and NFL promos.

  48. 48
    Doctor Casino on 15 Jan 2014 #

    An interesting read, this thread. This song never went anywhere in the US – dance music of this sort was fringier, and Oasis didn’t have anywhere near the star power required to push this to the fore. I heard it once or twice on alt-rock radio and that was it. I think I heard “Let Forever Be” more than this!

    So, in a world where it’s not an “event” or a generational landmark, does it do anything? Well, it is compellingly energetic and noisy, and there are some super cool sounds that do linger in the ear a bit. The guest vocal is lousy, the video is cool. I’d probably give it a 4 or 5 – listenable and interesting, just doesn’t stick with me.

  49. 49
    Doctor Casino on 15 Jan 2014 #

    (Oh – but their next one, that registered! Bunny ahoy.)

  50. 50
    MikeMCSG on 15 Jan 2014 #

    #41 He wasn’t keen on Jay-Z doing Glastonbury was he ? But yeah it’s a good point that people usually have broader tastes than their normal output suggests. That was just my ( biased – I never liked Oasis ) take at the time.

  51. 51
    Tom on 15 Jan 2014 #

    #48 It’s probably worth pointing out that it WASN’T really an “event” as such here – it was news because Oasis were news, and it got to #1 on the strength of that, but it wasn’t a big boundary-crossing hit: it’s a fanbase number one as much as anything we’ll see over the next few years is. I’ve spent time on it because I like it, and because it seems significant in terms of some of the bigger themes of the blog (‘nostalgia’ etc) – but there wasn’t that much of an ‘event’ context to miss.

  52. 52
    Mark M on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Re 47: Emilia Fox, innit?

  53. 53
    Alex on 15 Jan 2014 #

    If you’d have asked me in 1996 who my favourite band was, I’d have said the Chemical Brothers, without hesitation. I was 15 and knew next to nothing about dance culture or psychedelia or hip-hop but their music was a route into all of these things and more.

    +1. This was the moment of discovery for me – that and Black Grape. Then Daft Punk “Da Funk” came out the year after and kicked it up a gear.

    (It was only later I realised I’d been absorbing masses of early 90s classics via radio for years because I knew all the words.)

  54. 54
    Alex on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Has anyone mentioned “Chris” Evans failing to play this on the R1 breakfast show? Well I will.

  55. 55
    Rory on 15 Jan 2014 #

    #51 Ah, that’s helpful. Sorry, I think I was the one who first suggested/supposed it was an event. That’s probably me reading the “UK Number 1s in the 1990s” page countless times and going “don’t know that one, don’t know that one, don’t know that one, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, YESSS!” and assuming that the impact of such a track reaching number one must have been considerable.

    On the other hand, it must have been. Five number one albums in a row from here on! An event in hindsight, then.

  56. 56
    weej on 15 Jan 2014 #

    #39 – I’m usually the last person to defend Noel Gallagher, but even I can’t deny that his interest in dance music is sincere. For further evidence look at his favourite music of 2013 – “Disclosure: “Truly fucking amazing.” …describes Daft Punk’s song Get Lucky as “effortless and brilliant” Having said this, his contribution here is not important at all (and we’d see see what happens when the Chems let him truly dominate a song a bit later with the much inferior ‘Let Forever Be’) – the acoustic live cover version at #4 really lays out clearly how much the hook = everything he’s not doing.

    So, a couple of flaws, but I still could not in good conscience give this anything less than a 10. It’s not a question of a moment or a cultural context, it’s simply a shocking, thrilling, life-changing noise – a piece of music that still stands out sonically after nearly 18 years. This seems as plain as the appeal of Breakfast At Tiffany’s seems incomprehensible.

    NB: It’s not my favourite track by them either – that’s (easily) Out Of Control. Star Guitar is in the top five. Pointing this out as there seems to be an element of “the early stuff was better” creeping in and want to respectfully disagree.

    One other thing – were they ever really “big beat”? I’d associate that term much more with another act we’ll see fairly soon, and there seems to be a clear divide between druggy and beery – with The Chems on one side, F***** S*** on the other and The Prodigy and Born Slippy (not really other Underworld) straddling the gap.

  57. 57
    Tom on 15 Jan 2014 #

    “Let Forever Be” has one of my favourite videos ever – gimmicky, trippy and nostalgic (for 80s TOTP viewers) at the same time. I also like the song a lot – again, its the riff, not Noel, which is doing a lot of the work, but he’s not bad on it.

    Favourite Chemical Brothers tracks: “The Private Psychedelic Reel”, this one, “Music: Response”, “Galvanize”, “My Elastic Eye”, “Song For The Siren”…. how do I rate the other bunny? Wait and see.

  58. 58
    Tom on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Their last album (not a #1) got a lot of “return to form” comments, and was a good start-to-finish listen in a ‘mature electronica’ kind of a way but it feels like their pop ear deserted them a while back.

  59. 59
    weej on 15 Jan 2014 #

    “Music: Response” and “Song to the Siren” are the others in my top 5.

  60. 60
    glue_factory on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Do their remixes count…if so I’d have to mention their version of Bomb The Bass’ Bug Powder Dust.

  61. 61
    Rory on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Wikipedia seems to think so, weej @56 – it quotes a certain Mr Cook:

    “The name came from our club, the Big Beat Boutique, which I’m tremendously proud of. I always thought the formula of big beat was the breakbeats of hip-hop, the energy of acid house, and the pop sensibilities of the Beatles, with a little bit of punk sensibility, all rolled into one. People like the Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers — we saw it as very similar to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, who grew up listening to soul records and blues records and then sold an English version of it back to America.”

  62. 62
    Cumbrian on 15 Jan 2014 #

    #57: Michel Gondry that video right? It’s a really great seemingly lo-fi kind of kaleidoscope of a video that one. Gondry’s best videos using these sort of building patterns though are, for me, Star Guitar (on first viewing, it took me about a minute to see what was going on and then I wanted to watch it again immediately) and Kylie’s Come Into My World, which is just fantastic.

  63. 63
    weej on 15 Jan 2014 #

    #61 Should have checked there first I suppose! I just associate the two with very different clubbing experiences, I have no ownership over the name of course.

    #62 For some reason I don’t really like the video for Star Guitar though I love the track and have been imagining things going past the window in time to music since I was very young indeed. I’d just like everything to be fitted to the music rather than just the larger things – and I don’t know if the track suits the idea as well as some others would.

  64. 64
    Cumbrian on 15 Jan 2014 #

    It’s not psychedelia updated for the modern age. It’s sci-fi in excelsis, with warp engines brrrr-ing around under it all, starfighters firing lasers at one another in a great squawking, dive-bombing run, shattering something into a millions squiggling shards and Noel Gallagher calling out from the bottom of the enormous gravity well surrounding the supermass of the drums and bass-line. And that’s just the first 45 seconds.

    Later, the drums drop out and the voice comes from across hyperspace, as we realise that since that opening 45 seconds, we’ve been zooming around the edge of the battle before the engines spiral down and the battle restarts, with the lasers laying waste to everything in sight – while all the while the voice intones “I tell you now, it’s just too bad” sympathising with the victims of this crushing onslaught.

    It’s terrifying and thrilling and awe-inspiring and beautiful. Like an explosion. I can’t find fault with it. 10.

  65. 65
    Cumbrian on 15 Jan 2014 #

    63: Hmm. That’s interesting. I always struggled with Star Guitar in seeing the big things lining up as well but could see lots of little things lining up with ease (there’s what looks like a signal switcher or an electricity box right next to the window during the middle when they go through the town for instance). I was trying to work out which elements of the track the hills and the trees in the distance lined up with and I couldn’t quite get it. I think that’s why I love it so much – it’s like a puzzle crossed with a Magic Eye that I think should fit more than it does and i can’t get it quite right. Maddening but something that I always watch intently whenever I see it.

  66. 66
    Izzy on 15 Jan 2014 #

    I adore it, it’s the best. Always felt it was a shame SG was such a niche track, it deserved to be hitched to a worldwide no.1.

    I remember once listening to Madonna (sadly I don’t recall the track), facing backwards on a train, when I experienced a little period of about twenty seconds where pylons, oil tanks, wagons and so on – and a big stadium looming overhead – flicked past in perfect time. It was breathtaking.

  67. 67
    weej on 15 Jan 2014 #

    #66 – In 2001/2002 pills always seemed to be laced with opiates (why I don’t know, momentarily cheaper I suppose) and SG perfectly captures the woozy euphoria I consequently associate that time with. So a niche track sums it up nicely, and I can’t imagine what I’d make of it if it didn’t have that almost physical association.

  68. 68
    Chelovek na lune on 15 Jan 2014 #

    I suspected that I would disagree with Tom about this one, and dissent from the general consensus, too…

    This is a track I’ve tried to love, but love cannot be forced! I can *appreciate * what the track does and I think I have some understanding of where its appeal, to those who like it, lies: the craft, the layering, the influences, the crossovers between big beat, Northern indie, Tomorrow Never Knows….but it leaves me cold. As synthetic cubism generally does, too.

    Maybe it is just because I’ve never heard this is a “dancing context” (that would be living in small, conservative, remote rural town halfway up Scotland at the time for you). I do think the Chemical Brothers created some fine tracks (some rather less fine ones among them too, though): they had great skill – I wonder if the label of a more “grown-up Prodigy” fits: it does seem to me like rave (etc) music for adults, rather than 17 year olds meeting around the M25…

    But…sorry, I find this essentially a fairly horrible wail with unattractive vocals, a few interesting riffs (both of music and voice), but…well, as a few people have suggested, really an album track rather than a single.


  69. 69
    flahr on 15 Jan 2014 #

    #52 iMDB sez you’re right – I admit I thought it was Sarah M-G.

  70. 70
    @DanDigs on 15 Jan 2014 #

    Brilliant, brilliant writing on the life & times of the Chems’ “Setting Sun” –> http://t.co/CrfdsrnX1r via @matoswk75

  71. 71
    Steve Mannion on 15 Jan 2014 #

    I think I managed to hear this just before I heard TNK but both would’ve been new to me at around the same time. I was only a few weeks into my first term at university when this hit the top and luckily had bonded with a DJ and budding producer on my course over a very strong overlap of musical taste and knowledge.

    He mentioned the blatant influence of TNK on SS having been introduced to the former via a Future Sound of London ‘Essential Mix’ the year before. This mix in fact (about 19 mins in, pitched up a bit tho): http://www.mixcloud.com/jahthecat1/future-sound-of-london-essential-mix-04-06-1995/ (broadcast via the miraculous gift of ISDN iirc including Demon-hosted URLs being read out occasionally making it the most mid-90s thing ever perhaps).

    I was delighted by its success as even with the Noel factor it felt more of a surprise than ‘Firestarter’ making #1. And again with a single too fierce for much daytime airplay. And again from another act you would never see on Top Of The Pops. A 9 for me too.

    I strongly disagree with thefatgit @36 re the alleged superiority of the Chems to their co-charting peers however. I think if anything stood them out amongst that crowd was the broader range and nature of influences evident in their sound rather than production craft itself where I do not hear them as more than equal to the others mentioned as album+tour electronic(a) merchants par excellence.

  72. 72
    taDOW on 15 Jan 2014 #

    ‘star guitar’ maybe my fave chem bros now though the video does play a large part. finding out ‘galvanize’ was chem bros was a surprise, they were so far off my (and i thought the world’s) radar it was shocking to find that there profile in the us was higher than ever in a way. casino understates ‘setting sun’s success in the states severely, it drew press attention in ways that virtually no dance tracks had prior (rolling stone spent considerable ink on it) and it was a definite factor along w/ ‘firestarter’ in 1997 being anticipated to be the ‘year of electronica’, it’s profile in the mainstream was comparable to a badmotorfinger single, present definitely but it’s significance lay more as a potential sign of things to come.

  73. 73
    23 Daves on 15 Jan 2014 #

    I’m late to this thread and there’s so little left to add. However, I’m not sure if anyone’s mentioned it already – perhaps it would be stating the obvious – but there were people (me included) who really thought that this potentially heralded Noel Gallagher’s new direction. We thought that “Be Here Now” might be a wild mix of rock classicisms with an updated electronic edge. These things seemed possible in those days. How naive we all were.

    Much as I preferred “Let Forever Be”, this is still a stormingly good single, a fantastic slap around the face. After this, I’d say it’s all downhill for Noel in terms of broader cultural respect, though. He showed us what was possible, then he blew it.

  74. 74
    Tom on 15 Jan 2014 #

    #73 this brings up a question which I’m completely unequipped to answer – how do big Oasis fans rate “Setting Sun”?

  75. 75
    wichitalineman on 16 Jan 2014 #

    The twenty seconds of relief from the Tomorrow Never Knows sample*, beginning at 2.10, is possibly the most avant twenty seconds of any Popular entry to date.

    At the time I was delighted for the Chem Bros that they’d scored a no.1, something unthinkable less than three years earlier when their residency at the Sunday Social, then at the Lord Albany on Great Portland Street, was starting up.

    Tomorrow Never Knows, Jeff Perry’s Love Don’t Come No Stronger and Love Unlimited’s Under The Influence Of Love were the Chems’ three Social end-of-the-nighters, much like Wigan Casino’s I’m On My Way, Time Will Pass You By and Long After Tonight Is All Over. In this respect, Setting Sun (is the title a clue?) felt as if they were saying goodbye to their earlier funnier stuff. Unlike Chemical Beats, the bunnied follow-up, and Hey Boy Hey Girl, I found/find Setting Sun a clear career move** and therefore rather hard to love. Only a 6 for me.

    *not really a Beatles sample, surely. It must have been re-played.

    **they were managed by Heavenly’s accountant, Robert Linnie. Heavenly were convinced they would sign the Chemical Brothers as it seemed their natural home, but Linnie got them a deal with Virgin in ’95. There was never any bad blood between the two camps, just disappointment.

  76. 76
    AMZ1981 on 16 Jan 2014 #

    From a personal point of view I’m finding that while I remember most of the number ones from Autumn 1996 I haven’t heard a lot of them for years including this one. I’ve just revisited it on Youtube and – it left me rather cold first time round but seventeen years on it blew me away.

  77. 77
    hardtogethits on 16 Jan 2014 #

    Tortuous chart facts, back by popular demand:

    The first single in UK chart history to debut at #1 then plummet out of the top 3* in the second week. Huge apologies if I’ve overlooked someone else saying this.

    *Indeed the first single in UK chart history to debut at #1 then plummet out of the top 2 in the second week.

  78. 78
    DanH on 16 Jan 2014 #


    Definitely! I heard Galvanize at a bar recently, and had to ShaZam to find out who or what it was. I’d thought it was only NFL pregame/highlights music for the longest time. But it was Chemical Brothers indeed. I was out of the ‘electronica’ loop in ’97, I didn’t hear Firestarter until after the Weird Al parody, so I can’t speak to how successful or unknown CB was in America.

  79. 79

    […] by this brilliant piece I read today on the life and times of the Chems‘ “Setting Sun,” a song that […]

  80. 80
    hardtogethits on 16 Jan 2014 #

    #77 oops. Gary Barlow’s was the first single in UK chart history to debut at #1 and fall to #3. This was the first to fall to #4 in its second week. Thanks to the person who contacted me directly to politely and privately point out my error. Guess where I’m posting next.

  81. 81
    23 Daves on 16 Jan 2014 #

    #74 The ones I knew at the time liked it a lot, but they were all people who failed to stick with the group after the disappointment of “Be Here Now” – I’d imagine the hardcore faithful who still thought they were one of Britain’s greatest bands after that point may have had other thoughts? I can’t speak for any of them, though, as I don’t actually know anyone who fits that category. Clearly they exist in droves, but I can’t remember meeting anyone like that.

    #54 Just spotted this – did Chris Evans really refuse to play this? What was his justification, exactly? Too noisy?

  82. 82
    wichitalineman on 16 Jan 2014 #

    Re 80: Dunno?

  83. 83
    Kat but logged out innit on 16 Jan 2014 #

    Life was so HARD and I had to start doing GCSE COURSEWORK and Adam wouldn’t GO OUT WITH ME and the Spice Girls were still EVERYWHERE and I still never won any SWIMMING RACES and my tracksuit bottoms were too SHORT because of stupid GROWTH SPURTS and I was ANGRY because everything was UNFAIR and my black nail polish had RUN OUT.

    Peak ungrateful sulky teenager! I bought this on CD single (I think it must have been the last #1 I actually purchased?) and played it very loudly and pretended I was Katherine, Destroyer Of Worlds.

  84. 84
    AMZ1981 on 16 Jan 2014 #

    #77 By this same time in 1997 it’s quite a common thing of course. From the point of view of a geeky teenager who listened to the top 40 religiously every Sunday it meant that by the time I got to know a number one record it was at 30 something. Which felt like a shame because with hindsight there are some terrific records topping the charts.

  85. 85

    […] Tom Ewing (via “Setting Sun” | FreakyTrigger) […]

  86. 86
    Alex on 16 Jan 2014 #

    #81: well, this Oasis fan loved it. Bought BHN and saw them at Sheffield Arena on the tour; disappointing and clearly Time to Move On.

    WRT Chris Evans, thought it was noisy and hangover-tickling and not Kula Shaker enough I presume.

  87. 87
    Patrick Mexico on 16 Jan 2014 #

    Hmm. No recollection at the time, far too young.. but probably happy to give a 7. It’s rare that the psychedelic and the powerful make for good bedfellows in a #1, but this does the job with aplomb, like much of the Chemical Brothers’ work, the sound of someone throwing a spanner into the works of a giant robotic arm that would normally make a Ford Fiesta, but now makes a Space Shuttle. Just a shame Noel Gallagher’s vocals are so flat they sound like they’re being crushed by it.

    Having said that, though they needn’t have worried it was obligatory, this was a golden opportunity for Oasis to raise their creative game and shift into heavier, more electronic and less trad-rock territory – not wanting to criticise, maybe they never had it in them anyway. We might never know.

    The video’s a corker though – saucer-eyed girls! Freakishly not-yet-over-memed cats! If not my favourite of all time (currently Duran Duran 82-85 and the Going Underground bit where they deface all the Prime Minister photographs in two seconds flat) it’s definitely my favourite containing a bad trip – though oddly, that’s not a very hotly contested field.

  88. 88
    tm on 16 Jan 2014 #

    Not much to add here except to say that I agree with Tom @ 57 that Private Psychedelic Reel is the bollocks, the biggest and baddest drum sound ever, among other delights.

  89. 89
    iconoclast on 16 Jan 2014 #

    I didn’t pay much attention to this at the time, apart from being aware that Noel G took his name off the songwriting credits for some reason. It’s better than I expected, although it’s essentially a noise-splattered ersatz Noel G pastiche of “Tomorrow Never Knows” with none of the panache or finesse. FIVE.

  90. 90
    Alan not logged in on 16 Jan 2014 #

    1996 had been for me the year of Underworld – 2nd Toughest was amazing and stuck in the CD player, and had sent me back to Rez and dubnobas. And of course Trainspotting had thrown Born Slippy (NUXX for the pedantic) into the charts. (Up to number 2 was it and kept off number one by Wannabe?)

    The whole dust brothers/chemical brothers thing was burbling away in the background as something I might care to pay attention to, and when this came along to force my attention, it was yoked to a Gallagher. Yikes. Too self-identified as an Oasis hater, it stopped me caring a great deal. I later enjoyed a New Year’s “DJ” set of theirs (1998/99 at Alexandra Palace) but again that was sidelined by both New Order’s and Underworld’s full sets. I like much of specifically Dig Yr Own Ole, but the Private Psychedelic Reel is still the only Chems track I get a big kick out of.

  91. 91
    Patrick Mexico on 16 Jan 2014 #

    #89 Aye, I’m put off by the Tomorrow Never Knows steal as well. It suggests however leftfield an artist the Gallaghers worked with, however much they tried to raise the bar, they still couldn’t avoid ripping off the Beatles. There must be more to them to that.. I hope, I think, I know? (A genuinely life-affirming and heartbreaking pop song in a desert of delusion – but Oi! We’ll cross that bridge when Marcello comes to it!!)

    The haters on the Don’t Look Back In Anger thread said things like “I can’t stand this as it’s the sound of a million party tossers with acoustic guitars” and it struck a chord with me. (sorry, as I type I realise that pun was genuinely unintentional!!) A central problem with Oasis? Their over-reliance on cod-pretty acoustica, and disdain for the “heavy” and “hard” a band. They were too raw and winningly macho a band to go a long way with, as we’ll see later on Popular

    I remember a FourFourTwo interview a decade ago about the UK’s “great music cities” where one Gallagher said “Not Birmingham for some reason.” I think there’s two key bands fuelling that assertion.. it’s not Steel Pulse and Lolly, but I’m paranoid and might have a communication breakdown about telling you which.

  92. 92
    Fivelongdays on 16 Jan 2014 #

    This is part two in the ‘Dance Music Doesn’t Have To Be Shit’ 1996 trilogy of number ones and, while I’d consider it the weakest, that’d be more down to the quality of the other two.

    Personally, a revelation [more of which in two Popular years] between DLBIA and this meant I’d started to seriously fall out of love with Oasis, but that didn’t impact on how much I liked this. Wild, crazy, intense, insane, and really rather good.


  93. 93
    Patrick Mexico on 16 Jan 2014 #

    “Dance Music Doesn’t Have To Be Shit?”

    Calm down, Damien McSorley.

  94. 94
    @NikolaTamindzic on 17 Jan 2014 #

    “You can match the Beatles’ speed, but not their acceleration.” http://t.co/kFNYXwHQ4c Also, Paul says hello: http://t.co/P4K5juNUkb

  95. 95
    Rory on 17 Jan 2014 #

    This thread has prompted me to listen more intently to Exit Planet Dust than ever, mainly because it’s one of the two ChemBros albums that has randomly made its way onto my iPod. The sequence from “Song to the Siren” through “Chemical Beats” is about as perfect a distillation of their essence as any, which is not to dismiss the other tracks; “Leave Home” is clearly also essential, and the later coming-down tracks serve their purpose well. The synth stabs at the end of “Life is Sweet” are distracting in 2014, though, seeing how they were ripped off for the theme to Dragon’s Den.

    The other random album on my Pod is Further, which is pretty decent, but its first track is always a barrier for me – those feedback noises are about as headphone-unfriendly as it gets.

    Favourite ChemBros tracks? The monster 1-2 punch of “Come With Us” and “It Began in Afrika” from Come With Us; “Hey Boy Hey Girl” and “Music: Response” from Surrender; “Star Guitar” (which works just fine even without physical associations; I have indeed used it to soundtrack journeys on the East Coast line); that sequence from Exit Planet Dust; and “Galvanize” and “Believe” from Push the Button. There may be others; I’ll save further Dig Your Own Hole comments for the next ChemBros thread.

    Has anyone picked up the digital-only B-Sides Volume 1 compilation? Is it worth it? (Who am I kidding, now that I know about it I’ll inevitably buy it.)

  96. 96
    @peteashton on 17 Jan 2014 #

    I enjoyed reading: THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS – “Setting Sun” http://t.co/PrqYu3PEGn

  97. 97
    Ed on 17 Jan 2014 #

    Great use of ‘Galvanize’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnPqFq1lIGg

    Truly the best of Britain.

  98. 98
    AMZ1981 on 17 Jan 2014 #

    #90 Born Slippy was held off by Killing Me Softly

  99. 99
    Fivelongdays on 18 Jan 2014 #

    #93 – I refer m’learned friend to my comments in the Firestarter/Dreamer threads.

  100. 100
    Music. | The Yorkshire Ranter on 19 Jan 2014 #

    […] FreakyTrigger recalls the Chemical Brothers’ Setting Sun going No.1. I associate myself entirely with the following sentiments: […]

  101. 101
    ciaran on 20 Jan 2014 #

    Late enough in commenting on this but not much else to say.

    Only revisiting it lately its still a very impressive piece of work. Gallagher out of the Noelrock comfort zone plus a whole load of sonic delights. A tremendous single then and now.

    Could be the closest the 90’s gets to a Telstar, I Feel Love, Pump up The Volume decade defining record that sounded so far ahead of its time.At least a 9 put could go higher!

    Finding it on youtube was interesting as it only appeared to be the 9th/10th option on the list. It hasn’t really been appreciated as much as it should and even though we find ourselves discussing it here its probbaly one of the lesser known chemical brothers tracks.

    More in-depth discussion about that to come of course.

  102. 102
    Chops on 30 Jan 2014 #

    Stork-boy! All I have to say on this review, really, other than it was awesome to read. Great review.

  103. 103
    Billy Hicks on 31 Jan 2014 #

    …wow, well that’s the end of me being (one of?) the youngest Popular commentators then :) Welcome!

  104. 104
    Middlerabbit on 7 Apr 2014 #

    I generally found – and find – Noel Gallagher’s voice a bit on the earnest side for my liking. Unlike Liam’s, it doesn’t appear to have degenerated particularly.

    I particularly enjoyed the comment about nobody being able to match The Beatles’ acceleration. I’d not thought of it in those terms and I think it’s a great description.

    Obviously, it’s Tomorrow Never Knows for the 90s. However, what this record made clear for me (aged 25 when it was released) was the window into the Chemical Brothers’ psyche.

    The first sign, calling yourself The Dust Brothers in tribute to The Dust Brothers always struck me as being really, really strange.

    This, playing ‘tribute’ to TMK by, fundamentally, replicating all of the loops in the original wiped away any possibility of naïveté on the parts of Tom and Ed.

    I was surprised by the number of people who hadn’t heard TMK at this point, post Beatles anthology. There are no obscure Beatles records, surely. My mistake; there must be.

    The release of this record makes me think of telephone marketing companies targeting the elderly or the very young. It’s cynical. I can’t forgive anyone involved because of the previous (Dust brothers).

    Noel is, as many others have noted, an engaging interviewee. I don’t object to anyone appropriating sounds, chord changes, melodies, harmonies, structures, what have you. But it fail to see the point if you’re not going to say something lyrically over the top. Which is why sampling is okay by me. But only if you add something of yourself that affords people a new viewpoint.

    Noel always says that writing lyrics is the bit he finds hardest. I can’t say I’m surprised because the lyrics tend to be the only part that originate from him. He freely admits to wholesale lifting of sounds, riffs, chord patterns, you name it. What he appears to be suggesting is that creativity is something he finds hard.

    Do something else then!

    A cynical re-recording with absolutely nothing to recommend it, musically, spiritually, lyrically or emotionally.


  105. 105
    Patrick Mexico on 21 Jul 2014 #

    #99 A belated sorry for that slightly dumb comment of mine. You speak the truth. If only “dance music doesn’t have to be shit” could filter through to people who liked Special D – Come With Me, QFX – Freedom and that ghastly happy hardcore take on Danish Eurovision winner Fly on the Wings of Love.

  106. 106
    Erithian on 3 Feb 2016 #

    Here’s what I found when I looked for this on YouTube – a good idea well realised, especially the convincing lip-syncing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SN7ASS1l1qs

    Not to everyone’s tastes, but very effective. The next step along from sampling, using the well-known vibe of TNK and creating something new and exciting from it. TNK itself would still have sounded startling in the 1996 chart (and as for the 2016 chart…) and this is one of those number ones that, whether it’s your bag or not, makes you somehow proud that something so leftfield can get to the top of “our” lists.

  107. 107
    Neil C on 24 Apr 2016 #

    Having loved Exit Planet Dust, I remember a sense of anticlimax when I first heard this on the Evening Session, and there’s still some of that 20 years on. I love the *idea* of the Chems (one of “my bands”) getting to Number One – I just wish it had been with a better song. I can enjoy the rush and whoosh of the track but I’d much rather have a bit more of a chord sequence.

    For my money, Life Is Sweet* did the clattery-chaos-with-guest-indie-vocalist far better – that would have been a high 8, whereas with this I can only go to a 6.

    I’d say much the same about Dig Your Own Hole vs Exit Planet Dust – the tunes seemed to be a bit less nimble, more monotonous, and just not as fun as I wanted them to be. Although I do have a big soft spot for Where Do I Begin, the lovely Beth Orton collaboration – that would have made a cracking single.

    * I made sure I got the CD1 single of Life Is Sweet rather than CD2, as Select magazine had made the “Daft Punk remix” sound amazing. Imagine! Life Is Sweet but in a crazy thrash guitar style!
    Then I finally got the single home and, oh dear, “Daft Punk” failed to live up to my expectations. And not for the last t…

  108. 108
    flahr on 16 Feb 2017 #

    Coming back to this review: I think it’s accurate to say that Big Beat is now over, in Popular terms anyway: so what were you thinking of when you wrote “So a lot of big beat sounded – and was – crunchingly unsubtle next to techno or drum and bass, and far more beery than psychedelic. “Setting Sun” wanders dangerously close to this trap – and other big beat Number Ones will march gleefully into it”? As far as I can tell the big beat number ones in question are Prodigy x2, Chems x2, and FBS x1 (x2 if you include BoA) – that’s 3 (4) 9s and 2 7s, so I assume ‘gleefully’ is doing a lot more work in that sentence than ‘trap’ is! (A stance I would of course agree with.)

  109. 109
    hardtogethits on 21 Feb 2018 #

    Don’t think I am adding anything v new here by way of opinion, but… I heard this today on the ‘Discover’ playlist of an Oasis fan who didn’t know of it.

    Me: Noel Gallagher is on this
    He: Brilliant!
    Pause to listen
    Me: I don’t remember it being this noisy. Or tuneless. Or meaningless.
    He: Over-hyped modern day air raid siren.

  110. 110
    Lee Saunders on 22 Feb 2018 #

    Great! This thread has been bumped. It’s my favourite number 1 single of all time.

    Tomorrow Never Knows with Lennon’s third eye being blinded, 49 Cigars attempting Trainspotting-style withdrawal, Splintered in Her Head raving for the first time. Perhaps some would disagree but those all sound like fantastic song ideas for me. But, needless to say given you know its my favourite number 1 ever, the actual execution transcends it all.

    Perhaps its no coincidence my favourite Oasis single is Falling Down.

  111. 111
    benson_79 on 23 Jan 2021 #

    This review was quite the rollercoaster – I had no idea what the mark was going to be until the end (perhaps because of earlier Popular antipathy towards the ‘Sis?).

    Also genuinely had never made the connection between this and TNK until now. Maybe they made it *too* obvious, Clive.

  112. 112
    Gareth Parker on 20 May 2021 #

    Don’t like this as much as the 2 Prodigy number ones from ’96 I’m afraid. 5/10.

  113. 113
    Mr Tinkertrain on 14 Feb 2022 #

    I don’t remember this being on the radio much at the time, but I do remember seeing the video on Top Of The Pops and had no idea what to make of it – it just seemed like a tuneless racket. When I came back to it a few years later I liked it a lot more and I hadn’t heard Tomorrow Never Knows at the time so the connection didn’t mean much to me (TNK is still not a Beatles track I particularly care for, although I can appreciate its influence and innovation). In retrospect it’s an unusual chart-topper in that it’s not very radio-friendly, certainly not compared to Hey Boy Hey Girl or Galvanise, say. 8/10 from me.

    Hadn’t seen the video since it came out – watching it now, it’s nice to see the opening section being filmed in Crystal Palace, which is only a short walk from where I live.

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