The Chemical Brothers The Chemical BrothersFurther
What did we expect from “Further”? How far can The Chemical Brothers go? Are they still capable of reinventing big beat? Do we want them to reinvent it or do we simply want them to return to the sound of our favourite record? I think that in order to evaluate “Further”, we first have to be honest with ourselves about this and answer these questions. These are my answers. From “Further”, I expected night-owl spirits, drums, cymbals and layers of acid, which seem to be all the rage of late. I don’t think that the duo is going to get very much further at this stage of the game - they are already sitting high up on the Mount Olympus of the gods of electronica. Why should they try to earn the titles of Kings if they are happy being Dukes? That’s why I don’t think that pulling an innovative formula out from their sleeves to revolutionise the planetary dance floor scene is among their artistic goals. I thought “Further” would be similar to “Surrender” , which for my money is Rowlands and Simons’ best album. Many of you will agree with me; others won’t. I also think that “We Are The Night” wasn’t too bad (the song of the same name makes my hair stand on end), and “ Do It Again” is a great song, even though it ended up as an advertisement melody. I don’t think my opinions on this are as widely shared as the think-tank that defends “Surrender”, but I’ve laid my cards on the table. Judge me as you see fit.
“Further” isn’t exactly a new “Surrender”, but the English combo definitely didn’t spend time over the recording period playing on their Wii, as we suspect they did during “We Are the Night”. They have been to class, done their homework and really applied themselves. Simons and Rowlands were excellent students until the end of the 20th Century; afterwards, overconfident, they stopped pushing themselves. What’s brought them back to form - are they scared of being insulted, or just bent on doing their best? I don’t know, but the efforts are appreciated and are to be applauded. And even though anyone can imagine the visual spectacle they have up their sleeve for this new album, there are musical moments worth recovering here. “Escape Velocity”, which we’ve heard already and which raised welts around town, is one of those moments. Eleven cold-blooded, nocturnal minutes which awaken the urge to dance in any spirit. Drums and cymbals, layers of acid, and clapping taked to the limits of what is humanly bearable. We finally have a genuine The Chemical Brothers song, at 140 bpm, with a playful melodic pattern snaking around our feet. You might think that the duo has spent their energy in the eleven minutes of the first single, but the most pleasant surprise with “Further” is that after the ten minutes of acid ecstasy that is the first single, there is still another techno orgasm to come.
While the second climax is approaching, the duo reconciles itself with music in an exercise in melodic adolescent petting. First, “ Another World” goes from “The Love Boat”-style cruise music to a cosmic tune, a sonata to peacefully receive an alien mothership. “ Dissolve” has very high levels of pop content in comparison with the rest of the album, and sent me running to listen to Holy Fuck’s “Latin” to make sure that it isn’t actually a song from that record. There are psychedelics, drums, and distortion that confuse and distract your mind. The next thing you know, an intimidating vocoder is starting to repeat “ Horse Power” in your ear. The next second, four synthesiser notes start to dilate your pupils. Suddenly, the neighing of a horse gets you on your toes. And here we have the aforementioned second orgasm of “Further”. God bless techno. If you have been trying to decide whether to buy your ticket to Sonar for Saturday night, here you have an enormous reason to put in the “Yes” column.
To close “Further”, The Chemical Brothers slow down the last section of the record. “ Swoon”, “ K+D+B” and “ Wonders of the Deep” come close to pop from different angles, and all with a loving, precious spirit. If the melody of “Swoon” doesn’t make you feel tender, it will be “Wonders of the Deep” that raise your levels of oxytocin; it’s like “ The Best of You” from the Foo Fighters meets “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” . But I have to be honest - in reality, the rest of the album doesn’t matter that much to me, it is eclipsed in my memory by the synthetic drip of “Escape Velocity” and the violent percussion of “Horse Power”. Both are eleven out of ten. And they total eighteen minutes out of fifty. If only for that, the brothers deserve high marks.