The Chemical Brothers are about as integral to dance and electronic music as neon lights and boiler suits. I think this is the case in the British scene at least, where they helped shape it in the 90s and 00s alongside the likes of the Prodigy and Fatboy Slim.
I pretty much came into this album sort of knowing what to expect, but at the same time, it felt like a complete mystery, how would they approach this new fangled world of EDM?
From the start, the album is still quintessentially Chemical Brothers, by looking to the past; some reviewers have said it could represent the future of electronic music. The slightly chaotic and disorganised sounds of the album may indeed signify the future, as dance music gets weirder; almost mirroring what happened in the late 80s and early 90s when the likes of jungle and drum and bass started to appear amongst the acid house and techno scenes.
The album’s opener ‘Sometimes I Feel So Deserted’ fits this mould perfectly, modern fans may draw comparisons to Disclosure somewhat, but make no mistake, this is a Chemical Brothers song through and through. The same could also be said for Go, the lead single off the album. These two songs are absolutely fantastic starts and it never really loses sight of this direct aggression until the very end where the album does finally settle down in the final couple of tracks.
Other songs such as Under Neon Lights, EML Ritual and Taste of Honey are just very leftfield and wildly different to anything in mainstream electronic music right now, it’s a breath of fresh air that’s mixed with some sort of psychoactive drug, these songs are just crazy, but still have such good production value and dance-ability that it’s still good in my eyes.
Taste of Honey in particular, which is probably one of the weaker tracks on the album, but is so well produced that the quality still shines through in the end- right down to the bee sound effect which pans across your headphones as if it’s really there.
I’ll See You There has some of the best drumming I’ve heard on an electronic music song for years, probably since FML by deadmau5 over 6 years ago. Speaking of which, another track Reflexion could very easily be lifted from a deadmau5-esque album, but the Chemical Brothers still stamp it with their signature, from the slightly odd synths and the super punchy kick drums, it sways all over the place beautifully.
The album finally calms down with about 4 songs to go and whilst I probably would have liked a giant crescendo of a finale, it still fades out fairly nicely, albeit in a slightly tepid way; after the rush of the first 2/3rds of the album, to see it close out on such melancholic notes is enjoyable, but not necessarily what the doctor ordered.
I did find the song Radiate to be very peaceful and a really solid come down from the earlier bombastic sounds, so it does its job for sure. This is one impressive album; the Chemical Brother’s might not be as popular as some of the bigger EDM superstar DJ’s out there, but let me tell you, they should be.
This album is distinctly leftfield and revels in it. You couldn’t put it in a modern sub-genre, it’s not deep house or big room, it’s just straight up out-there, but great electronic music.