Leftfield: This Is What We Do – A terrific late career landmark

Grian Chatten from Fontaines DC stars on dance titans’ riveting fourth album

This is What We Do
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Artist: Leftfield
Genre: Dance/electronica
Label: Virgin

The 1990s spawned some colossal dance supergroups, namely Daft Punk, The Prodigy, Orbital, The Chemical Brothers, Underworld and Leftfield. They collectively transformed an almost faceless genre into a multimillion selling Frankenstein’s monster of house, techno and big beat mixed with a dash of old-fashioned rock’n’roll. This phenomenon occurred just as ecstasy tablets subversively branded with corporate logos proliferated and plummeted in price.

Leftfield didn’t have the same focus on a frontman (or in The Prodigy’s case, frontmen) as Underworld did, choosing to enlist the services of guest vocalists and collaborators as diverse as Afrika Bambaataa, Toni Halliday and John Lydon, a tactic also effectively employed by trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack and festival favourites and scene stalwarts The Chemical Brothers.

Intriguingly, the voice behind the lead single of the first Leftfield album in seven years is none other than Skerries singer Grian Chatten from Fontaines DC, who also contributed to Kae Tempest’s current album and whose band have been feted around these parts of late.

Chatten lends his trademark half-spoken, half-sung sneer to Full Way Round. “Can I get served over here?” he intones, as if he’s in the Lord Edward on Christmas Eve trying to get his round in. Leftfield’s Neil Barnes confesses he doesn’t know exactly what Chatten is on about, beyond narrating a nocturnal adventure involving a taxi ride, but it sounds brilliant.


Lemn Sissay also appears, who sang on their debut back in 1995, as does long-term collaborator Earl 16, a familiar presence from one of their best-known songs, Release the Pressure. There are some emotional nods to The Beatles of electronic music, Kraftwerk, on the mesmerising City of Synths, Machines Like Me and Pulse.

In a recent interview for this newspaper, Barnes revealed that he completely went through the mill while making This Is What We Do, juggling divorce, depression and cancer treatment during the album’s gestation.

The record is subsequently dedicated to the late Andy Weatherall, who died suddenly in 2020, making it the second major electronic album in the last few weeks suffused with the Screamadelica producer’s spirit and memory, coming hot on the heels of another late album-of-the-year contender, the breathtaking Ultra Truth by Daniel Avery.

Neil Barnes and Adam Wren have made a riveting album to add to Leftfield’s rather slim back catalogue. While the hit singles of Leftism and the unmistakable rumble of Phat Planet from an iconic Guinness ad will feature more vividly in their public perception, This Is What We Do is a terrific late-career landmark from one of the original dance bands, who quite literally refused to roll over and die.