Monday, September 8, 2008

Chemical Brothers

The Chemical Brothers – Brotherhood (2008)


In a move as puzzling as placing an eject button on a DVD remote control, dance stalwarts, The Chemical Brothers, have released a second best of, five years after their previous singles collection. The number of albums the duo have released between these two best of’s ; TWO. To make things even more ridiculous the new best of shares nine tracks with the previous ones. However this is not a total scam as The Chems (as they are affectionately known) bothered to record two new tracks.

In a bout of scientific reasoning I have tried to come up with a number of hypothesis (and answers) to why a second greatest hits collection has been released after a two album gap.

a) The group are going to split up

b) The Chems felt that an emphasis on their ’00 output would be more relevant to the younger generation of album buyers.

c) The label wants to suck up more of our money


a) I don’t think so.

b) Could be. I hope so


Without doubt The Chemical Brothers are one of the best electronic artists today as they have managed to bridge the gap between dance and rock from day one and 15 years later they still have adhered to this. Go to any disco and sometime during the set a dj will drop a CB tune and, without doubt the crowd will turn into a frothing jumping monster. They still are relevant, even when the big beat genre they kick started has died a long time ago.

One has to admit though that The group’s ’00 output hasn’t been that great. 2002’s ‘Come With Us’ was patchy , 2005’s ‘Push the Button’ is probably the weakest album they have ever recorded and 2007’s ‘We are the Night’ saw a fusion of big beat and minimal techno and, despite critics panning the album, it was actually one of the strongest things they’ve done. In the long run these three albums wielded great singles , which TCB’s popularity.

Another aspect of The Chems which one should not ignore is that they always brought the best out of their collaborators and most of the time resurrected a career or even launched one.

Thankfully ‘Brotherhood’ does indeed preserve The Chem’s legacy to the fullest. When relistening to all these songs a complete onrush of memories flooded my brain and without doubt each track sounded great. The middle Eastern Hip Hop head mash up ‘Galvanize’ the neo psychedelia of ‘Let Forever Be’ the chunky ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ and brain popping ‘Do it again’ (not to mention extra kudos for leaving out ‘The Test’ and putting in the glorious ‘Saturate’. I felt like I was indeed listening to the ultimate Chemical Brothers compilation, the non chronological tracklisting adding more to a loose feel. I barely like best of’s as I find them dull and predictable but this one works beautifully.

I tend to view extra tracks on greatest hit albums as signposts to what will happen next, in this case the two exclusives here leave me baffled. ‘Keep my Composure’ is a collaboration with Spank Rock’s potty mouthed rapper Naeem Juwan and is a piece of slippy digital dirty rap, may not be as immediate as their singles, but this track is the most different and interesting thing the duo have done. The other song is called ‘Midnight Madness’ and is the typical Chemical Brothers track through and through. Danceable, chockfull of big beats and filtering, it’s something these guys shouldn’t add as they’ve done this sort of thing millions of times but they get away with it.

So is this album truly necessary? To be honest, if you already own all six albums and the previous best of there isn’t any need to really invest in this. However there is a limited edition with all ten ‘Electronic Battle Weapon’ tracks, to those who do not know, these tracks contain elements of some of the main tracks that appear on the studio albums, very rare a going for silly money on sites such as e-bay. It’s a dodgy affair though, the later tracks sounding better but for the obsessive collector these tracks are the electronic equivalent to the Holy Grail so this compilation has something for them too.

If you want a taster of the Chemical brothers work and don’t know which album to start from then this is one of the best launching pad that you will get. In hindsight it is better sequenced than the 2003 edition and the extra tracks are a treat in themselves but ultimately all six albums are more satisfying affairs as they portray this talented duo’s both singles in the context of an album and (most of the time) the make a bit more sense than being isolated on a cd like this.

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