By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Mix and match
The Dirtchamber Sessions, Volume One
Never mind the billing, because this isn't a Prodigy record. It's a Sex Pistols record, an Ultramagnetic MC's record, a KLF record, an LL Cool J record, until the disc's eight tracks feature nearly three dozen artists. It's a K-Tel postmodern-rock-and-dance sampler as compiled and deconstructed by Liam Howlett, Prodigy's songwriter and beatmaster--in all, an unholy and utterly listenable mess, a nonstop thrills-and-pills ride of cut-and-paste samples fused together by a thousand beats per minute. It's a spot-the-song disc for the attention-deficit crowd, a party comp, a rave how-to--oh, yes, and a source album for anyone who paid attention to 1997's Fat of the Land, Prodigy's influences laid bare for those convinced that record was pop sell-out. The Dirtchamber Sessions is back-to-roots rock, if by roots you mean the JB's and Time Zone. And Jane's Addiction.
A hell of a lot more fun than the Chemical Brothers' Brothers Gonna Work It Out, more all-over-the-place than even Andy Smith's kitsch-hop The Document, The Dirtchamber Sessions ain't too different from a Prodigy record. Meaning, it's mainstream enough to draw in the crowd that buys Urb collections (cf. Chemical Brothers, Primal Scream, and Fatboy Slim samples) and obscure enough to maintain its credibility (cf. The Beginning of the End, T-La-Rock, Frankie Bones, the Jimmy Castor Bunch). A record like this is a little like Texas weather: If you hate one sample, wait about five seconds.
Sometimes it's too postmodern for its own good: Track Four piles song upon song, until Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" and the Propellerheads' "Spybreak!" and the Beastie Boys' "It's the New Style" are all playing at the same time, never quite becoming one song. Samples of samples sampled by a DJ whose own songs are carved from these very samples--how utterly nauseating to consider. Better "Spybreak!" without all the added attractions; sometimes enough is way too damned much. Then again, pairing the Sex Pistols' "New York" with Fatboy Slim's "Punk to Funk" and Medicine's "I'm Sick" consists of bookending the Pistols with drum-machine breakbeats. The effect is a little like listening to the Pistols given the Stars on 45 treatment. Still, the whole thing is worth it if only for the now-ya-see-it-now-ya-don't inclusion of the Beasties' "Time to Get Ill," with its sampled lyric, "The girlies I like are under age." It's both homage and bitchslap, getting even with the Boys for lambasting Prodigy's own "Smack My Bitch Up" as misogynist. Now that's brilliant stuff.