Review Summary: Dirty electro? Go for your life.
It’s almost hard to remember a time when electro wasn’t dirty
. When electro-pop was just plain electro and florescence wasn’t associated with V-necks but the rather more mundane and innocent signpost. A time when it hadn’t been rolled about in the filth of cookie-cutter top 40 songwriters looking for the latest big trend to latch on to, which, in our woesome state of contemporary radio affairs, is electro. Dirty, filthy f’ucking electro. ‘Musical purists’ (read: certain wankers) have of course always got their panties into knots over the genre, preferring instead to mildly bop their heads within ivory dance rooms of House and Minimal; electro was always just that tad bit too pop
. What they always forget however, is that it was never meant to be ‘intelligent’ or ‘provoking’ - it was meant to be f'ucking awesome
. Ten ton beats played out across multi-colored dance floors, rippling lights briefly illuminating a lesbian couple making out among the mass of dancing, sweating bodies, the fashionistas, never dancing, but always looking cool – this was where big beat was meant to be played out. And for a while there, it was.
Enter The Chemical Brothers. After a couple of years of playing in club backrooms, their 1995 debut Exit Planet Dust
threw them into the starlight along with fellow beatsters The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim and The Crystal Method. Big Beat back then was fresh
. Not weighed down by the dark ambience and headache inducing Trance of the early 90s, Big Beat reveled in bombastic hip-hop and funk bass lines, a screeching siren call shamelessly screaming out to a generation of white boys who wanted to be black but just couldn’t quite
make the cut. This, well…. This was perfect. With enough groove to wash out a dance floor, the musical reclamation could take place, and The Chemical Brothers were there riding the wave hard and fast. A near decade and a half later then, a two disc retrospective (one of greatest hits and another of ‘experimental’ b-sides) like this one comes off like looking down the throat of musical royalty, a collection of crown jewels adored by dance fans the world over. Question is, how shiny have they remained?
Well, it depends really. Leading tracks Galvanize
, Hey Boy Hey Girl
and Block Rockin’ Beats
set to remind the audience that the Chemical Brothers, despite their seemingly timeless endurance have always been and still are, very much on top of the electro-rap trend. Deep funk lines mixed with raving electro beats throw the listener right in the Brothers’ world from the get go, a reminder to why this duo once ruled the kingdom of dance. Leave Home
and Setting Sun
(Featuring Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame) also help to tear up whatever dance floor Brotherhood
may be spun on as well. Still, there are misses here too, like Star Guitar
and its new age, lounge ambience never quite going anywhere, or The Golden Path
, which is just plain rubbish.
Fans will be on the lookout too, for the new track Keep My Composure
, possibly the epitome of recent electro movement – not that its particularly a great song, but with its roving, heavily distorted bass and fuzzily slow hand claps for beats, its everything an electro kid could ever ask for. While guest vocalist Spank Rock is undoubtedly the
hippest MC out there, his wicked style is somewhat cramped by a mediocre song, which is a bit of shame as well. Like all compilations, Brotherhood
is fairly weak at keeping itself cohesive, but hell, it’s to be expected from the greatest hits of a band whose career spans more than a decade. It’s a worry perhaps that in aiming to please everyone, the Chemical Brothers might have done the exact opposite, sacrificing some of their earlier and more popular hits in favor of variety. But even there, the Brothers refuse to disappoint:
This of course, brings us to our second disc, a collection of the ten Electronic Battle Weapons, the Brothers’ experimental chemical playgrounds. While they’ve all been around before in one form or another, this is the first time they’ve been put together collectively on disc, and to put it bluntly: These. Tracks. Are. MONSTERS. Like, absof'uckinglutely huge. Venturing into the domains of fellow dancemasters Orbital
, the Chemical Brothers throw away their pop aesthetic and embrace a far less accessible, but an infinitely more awesome mix of techno and acid-house orientations. Geared around relentless, plodding beats and repeated melodies, with delicate shifts and electronic effects pitching throughout the music, the Electronic Battle Weapons here are at once saturating and absorbing - giant laser rays, if you will, rather than the bullet quick singles of disc one.
While they may take a while to warm up, the Electronic Battle Weapons don’t jump and shout for attention like their disc one counterparts, with the early numbers (#1
) relying instead on slow subtlety and immersion to get the job done. Weapons #3
are especially potent, with their repeated vocal lines guaranteed to get stuck like thorns in a listener’s head, while Weapons #7
serve as the thundering crescendo of this historical audio trek, their electric blows finding themselves at full force here. Notably, Weapon #10
(the template for lead single Midnight Madness
) takes a leaf out of recent electro trends, most notably in the vein of Justice
, incorporating messy, screaming synth lines with a heavy but catchy bassline and weaving its way though carefully constructed electronic melodies before fading into its end of spacey ambience.
So no, The Chemical Brothers haven’t exactly ‘done it again’, ‘cause it all been done before, but with the Electronic Battle Weapons all laid out in collection here, the hits disc may as well be the bonus disc instead. It’s a nicely packaged little glimpse into the biggest dance hits in the world, a little bit rocky in places, but solid nonetheless. Dirty electro? Go for your life.
Disc 1 – 3.4/5
Disc 2 – 4.2/5
Overall – 3.7/5