Chemical Brothers - Further (Parlophone)
Chemical Brothers have seen a lot during their 18-year existence.
Having made dance music acceptable for indie kids in the
mid-'90s alongside The Prodigy, Underworld, Orbital and
Leftfield, they then spawned and outlived big beat and have
since become one of the few dance music big guns to have
survived and consistently released albums that leave many
electronic upstarts trailing in their wake. Their last offering
We Are The Night was one of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons'
best to date. So what of their seventh album proper, Further?
opener Snow is muted by the duo's usual standards. Emerging
from a sea of bleeps and washing machine-style drone, airy
vocals and three simple chords then enter the mix. It means
the album hits the ground walking but proves to be its single
downtempo moment. The Chems have always done a fine line
in euphoria but this time around there are many contenders
for the accolade of 'album goosebump raiser'.
there's the 12-minute soaring, grinding epic Escape Velocity
which just builds and builds with a rumbling crescendo midway
through that makes the track explode into life all over
again. Another World switches between full-on, sky-punching
peaks and fat, squelching, restrained troughs, lead-single
Swoon has a Star Guitar-style Ibiza anthem quality to it,
all gliding synths and sonic effervescence, and K+D+B trots
along nicely with its soft and simple vocal sample and joyful
electronic squeaks. Wonders Of The Deep is similarly shiny
and happy. Yet while this is certainly The Chemical Brothers'
most blatantly positive album to date, the overall lack
of a change in mood or emotion - after the beginning - is
to its detriment.
rousing psychedelia and melodic electronica take centre
stage, thankfully there's still room for the kind of dirty
dancefloor beasts the duo are renowned for in the form of
Horse Power. Horses neigh and whinny as nagging rhythms
build into a repetitive headbanger that squeals and kicks
and conjures up the atmosphere of a sweaty warehouse rave
at 3am. It proves to be a standout amongst all of the nice
yet singularly pitched tracks that surround it.
specialised in collaborations since their debut Exit Planet
Dust in 1995, Further is surprisingly completely devoid
of any big star names. Vocals are used at various points
throughout the album but are used more as tools rather than
creating the songs of yore such as Life Is Sweet, Setting
Sun or Believe. The tracks on offer remain strong but overall
lack the full character that a full vocal can bring and
therefore lack a commercial edge (as Swoon reaching a lowly
100 on the singles chart may testify). This may well be
a bonus for dance music purists but results in a lack of
accessibility and immediacy for those who may turn to Tom
and Ed as their token dance act.
Further ironically does little to further The Chemical Brothers'
sound, they have once again produced a strong and sturdy
album of high quality electronic music that still leaves
many of their peers sounding one dimensional and unexciting.
Tom and Ed's ability to make machines both scream and sing
continues unabated, even if some fans may be left craving
more variety and obvious hit material.