Review Summary: The block rockers grow wings
Even a cursory glance back over the 18 year career of The Chemical Brothers reveals a big case of “been there, done that”. They spawned big beat, taught the indie kids that dance music can still be acceptable, almost incurred legal action, allowed the Gallagher boys to exist in a world beyond the local pubs, and picked up a Grammy along the way. And somewhere down the track, they became world famous. But at what cost" Sure they established big beat as a very credible sound with their early works, then they tore it in two with their earth melting 1997 effort, Dig Your Own Hole
, which left Fatboy Slim attempting to pick up the pieces, with varying degrees of success. Then they cast their eyes at a more universal recognition; their stab at mainstream takeover was inspired to say the least (and by takeover I mean 'Hey Boy, Hey Girl'), but their steps into a new realm haven't been the most sure footed. Their path in the new millennium has brought them fame and criticism within the same circles, with their last outing, 2007's We Are The Night
, remaining the biggest target. Their much praised mix of rippling percussion and full frontal psychedelia took a back seat last few rounds, and without their sonic crutch to see them through, the chem's have faltered more times than they'd probably like to admit. There's been gold on everything they've done, but with each passing album its just been starting to shine less and less.
finds Chemical Ed & Tom returning to familiar territory, which for the uninitiated equates to something akin to tripping the light fantastic. As is always the case with new material from seasoned veterans, common ground is the first thing one seeks out in the music. If I had to compare this to any of their previous works, Further
would most likely find itself nestled comfortably in between the Electronic Battle Weapon series, such is the sprawling nature of this new decade's influence on the Chemical Brothers. What we have here is an expansive and varied slice of acid house and disco masquerading as big beat. They've reached into the nostalgia bag and pulled a few old tricks out, but added a few new ones in for good measure. One interesting thing to note is how sparingly vocals have been implemented; whereas up until oh, say 3 years ago, the chem's almost tailor made their songs for a particular guest, here we find the battlefield devoid of war cry's, save for fleeting moments as standard fare “dance anthems” are silhouetted by pulse and fury. Depending on what side of the fence you happen to sit on, that's either going to go over like a dance purists wet dream, or alienate you entirely. While the boys can never be accused of not filling their music with enough “character”, their vocal tracks have always remained (for the most part) gloriously efficient, than overtly cheesy.
Now free from having to build cohesive structures designed to comfortably sit with vocals, its plainly obvious that the lads have really made sure to express without speaking, and on the grandest scale. Every sound and nuance has been increased ten fold from We Are The Night
's almost background monotony. Synths are stretched to breaking point, beeps and sirens call out in alarming shrieks, cymbals crash and fall without warning, and percussion echoes and reverberates into a kaleidoscopic maelstrom, like a technicolor nightmare. 'Escape Velocity' transcends conventional boundaries, and just keeps on building, constantly seeking out a stable ground to release its consciousness altering intrusion. 'Swoon' builds itself on the same foundations as earlier masterwork 'Star Guitar', its party on the beach styling adorning the listener in the glow of strobing moonlight. 'Horse Power' is the banger though, guttural and nasty, infectious like poison and yet despicably alluring; it appears just when it needs to, stalling the free flowing euphoria to reveal sinister intentions. 'K+D+B' finds the brothers finally giving into their krautrock love, propelling and revolving around a foot tapping and motivating melody that spirals down into album closer 'Wonders Of The Deep', a rousing finale that shakes and rattles with as much energy as they mustered way back in the heyday of 'The Private Psychedelic Reel'.
is The Chemical Brothers walking the same path that they have done for the last 10 years, they're just walking it in a different manner. And while the lack of outside vocals (the only vocals present are courtesy of the brothers themselves) might present a few issues to some, it actually seems to heighten this journey that Ed and Tom are trying to set us up for. Individually these songs work in small doses, but when all the pieces are fitted together, a pulsing juggernaut of sound and distortion is revealed, all wrapped up in a psychedelic glee. The chem's haven't sounded this fresh and vibrant in years, and its a relief to know that 18 years in the scene hasn't diminished their knack for a good trip. Be surprised 2010, The Chemical Brothers have returned fresh faced and eager to impress.