David Holmes’ Bow Down to the Exit Sign (2000)

Bow Down to the Exit Sign

Album: Bow Down to the Exit Sign
Artist: David Holmes
Year: 2000
Reason Featured: #41 Album for NME’s Top Fifty Albums of 2000
My Favorite Songs: Sick City, Compared to What, 69 Police, Hey Lisa
Their Grades: Metacritic (84/100)
My Grade: 86%

Most of the DJ-made records I’ve encountered suffer under the weight of sameness. The beats, stunted piano stabs and samples all seem to fall into a template which is meant to be original but comes out sounding like everyone else. Even if David Holmes is sometimes prone to meandering, you have to give him credit for creating a record as diverse as it is cohesive. It’s got moments of R&B followed up by straight up rock and roll, trip-hop getting off the bus at the sound of a beautiful string arrangement.

The vocal tracks here speak to the quality of the rest of the album. Bobby Gillespie and Carl Hancock Rux both sing on one great song and one average one. For Gillespie, “Sick City” sounds like the best moments of his band Primal Scream with Holmes piloting straight for the heart of the new millennium while Rux adds some confident soul to the spacey “Compared to What.” The other two tracks they’re featured on (“Slip Your Skin” and “Living Room” respectively) lack the drive which sets the others apart.

But, as a DJ, Holmes has to succeed as an instrumentalist in order to be thought worthwhile. Without a vocalist to anchor down a track, it’s easy to lose a sense of melody. In this realm, he hits but more often misses. Even then, he’s at least still close to the ball when swings; his batting average remains admirable. “69 Police” doesn’t need a singer to be the best song on here and album closer “Hey Lisa” utilizes strings The Verve would’ve been proud of circa Urban Hymns. 

Like so many others of his era, Bow Down to the Exit Sign conjures up a futuristic landscape which may never be in reality. But it’s still a great place to aim for, in music and life in general.

Not featured on Spotify but here’s a video for “69 Police”

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