Chemical Brothers - We Are The Night
Review by Jack Foley
THE sixth album from the Chemical Brothers is a mixed affair that contains as many fabulous highs as it does crushing lows.
Lead single Do It Again, for instance, was a crushing disappointment and fairly symptomatic of the bland nature of mainstream contemporary dance music. But on efforts such as Das Spiegel and epic final offering The Pills Won’t Help You Now, Tom and Ed prove they still have what it makes to place them at the forefront of electronic music (whether chill out or dance).
The album itself was recorded undercover of darkness in a bombproof bunker in South London and is designed as “a route map through modern psychedelia” that evokes the dancefloors of Manchester and Minneapolis in the early 80s and London of 2007.
But while it’s fairly obvious that Tom and Ed have had to work hard to keep up with ever-changing trends, and have come up with the goods to a certain extent, it’s disappointing to find that where once they were pioneering and setting trends, they’re now content to conform on several occasions.
Do It Again is a particularly disappointing effort, reflective of the 2007 London (and Ibiza) dance scene. But we kind of expect more from the Brothers and it’s a far cry from the easy (and instant) exhilaration of earlier cuts such as Block Rockin’ Beats or, latterly, Galvanize.
The brooding menace of opening song We Are The Night also becomes tiresome and repetitive after a couple of listens. Indeed, the opening few tracks are decidedly hit and miss.
The first decent effort, proper, is All Rights Reserved, a busy, pounding effort that unites Tom and Ed with one of the bands of the moment, Klaxons. As a fusion of Chemical Brothers’ psychedelia and Klaxons nu rave it’s a thrilling dancefloor filler that’s also hip and cool.
Saturate, with its minimalist blips, low-key beats and effervescent electronic flourishes, is also a bit of a humdinger that explodes into several thrilling crescendos worthy of the Chemical Brothers name.
But then Do It Again arrives to ruin the high and bring you down a peg or two. Fortunately, it’s enlivened again by Das Spiegel, a magnificent blend of cute guitar riffs, quirky electronic cut-ins and psychedelia that provides a chilled highlight.
Things get even more kooky with The Salmon Dance, the sort of gleefully playful offering that would probably go down a storm at a children’s tea party (so long as you don’t listen to the words). Fatlip provides a rap that mixes impossibly cute with bad-boy swearing, while the info-mercial snippets are reminiscent of Lazy B in his prime. It’s one of the most inventive and endearing cuts on the record.
Thereafter, Burst Generator and A Modern Midnight Conversation both promise more than they ultimately deliver – the former dropping more pumped-up guitar loops, the latter opting for the blips and a chilled set of vocals that implore you to “listen to your heart”. Both aren’t bad necessarily, but Tom and Ed are capable of so much better.
Willy Mason’s distinct husky tones provide an endearing, almost Doors-like presence to another highlight, Battle Scars, a masterful journey into psychedelia that showcases Tom and Ed’s ability to consistently attract excellent guest vocals, while ushering towards its satisfying final tracks.
For wistful ambience, check out the dreamlike Harpoons, a teaser of a song that paves the way for the gorgeous The Pills Won’t Help You Now, a parting shot that seduces from the outset with its beautiful simplicity. Built around spine-tingling electronic melodies and a foreboding beat, the song also draws on guest vocals from another band-of-the-moment, Midlake, that perfectly match the laidback vibe of the track.
After the incessant beats and pumped up nature of some of the earlier tracks, it’s a wonderful comedown that should leave a smile on the face.
We Are The Night is therefore a mixed bag – one that ought to keep Chemical Brothers fans and dance enthusiasts happy without necessarily reaching the sustained heights that Tom and Ed were once capable of.
Download picks: All Rights Reserved, Saturate, Das Spiegel, The Salmon Dance, Battle Scars, The Pills Won’t Help You Now