THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS
For That Beautiful Feeling (EMI)
THIS IS NOT a pop album.
This has guest vocalists, however, they don’t take the lead across the 11 tracks, but slip into the mix, even if recognisable as all get out – hello Beck. The hooks are not melodic, bar the gospel-ish element of Goodbye, and if they hint at it, as with Magic Wand’s pop/soul line, or The Darkness That You Fear, they move on quickly rather than resolve or expand as a genuine hook might.
Any suggestions of sweetness, say for example the vocal samples of Fountains and Live Again, are limited, and the zones of repetition are more likely to be brief, as with The Weight, or utilising so little that it is almost hilarious to refer to them in terms of voice rather than sound, as with the whoop in No Reason.
Radio will struggle to find the daytime hits, if they bother at all; casual listeners will search in vain for the bit to shout out as they take the curve on the highway. This is not a pop album.
And that’s perfectly fine.
The Chemical Brothers have been there in pop’s borderlands often enough, sure, but they don’t live there. For That Beautiful Feeling is the essence of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons: sometimes hectic, sometimes threatening collapse, but always in control rounds of technology smashing into filled and empty spaces as if they were indistinguishable.
Hip-hop and blue-eyed soul get folded into waves of dreamy psychedelia in Fountains, the relentless smashing garbage bins for percussion making the guitars and synths feel like decorative ornaments/pretty counterpoint rather than lead tools. Hala Maud’s vocal contributions to Live Again must fight against, firstly, what might as well be a jet taking off, and then keyboards spoiling for a fight, and she is never expected to win. But all three elements find themselves swept up in the escalating pace in any case, a hard drive.
That techno tweak turns into a punishing steamroller in Feels Like I Am Dreaming, remorselessly spiralling upwards in torrents of squelching sonics until, just when you think it’s going to topple over into you at 3mins30, the space opens up, then the drums tumble back and you’re spiralling again.
But if you want your doses funked up, No Reason rides a grippy Fatback Band-style bassline into the teeth of the clattering storm, Magic Wand’s brief foray blends industrial smacks and smoothed-out vocals into a kind of Bootsy Collins at the pressed metal plant amalgam, and The Darkness That You Fear insinuates Giorgio Moroder, Donna Summer and a Latin drum breakdown into a wind up/wind down toy shop.
All of which suggests their shows next year are going to be pretty pretty pretty busy.