The Shoes - Chemicals
(aka Guillaume Brière and Benjamin Lebeau) are perhaps best know for the bouncy 'Time To Dance' – along with it’s notorious video starring Jake Gyllenhaall as a sociopathic serial killer. The third album from the French Electro Pop/Rock duo since 2011’s Crack My Bones is a different beast altogether.
As always, the duo have managed to pull together a varied of group of vocalists to guest on the tracks, from long time collaborator Esser to Black Atlass and Blaine Harrison of Mystery Jets fame. Chemicals (and by the same token The Shoes) is a difficult album to pigeonhole stylistically as it veers from the dreamy Goldfrapp-esque opener 'Submarine', to the mid nineties Hi-NRG trance of 'Drifted'. There are even flourishes of Violator era Depeche Mode on 'Lost in London' and Massive Attack on 'Feed The Ghost'.
It’s around the mid-point of the album that a few duff tracks start to appear – 'Give It Away' sounds like a track tucked away on a mid 90s Now: Dance compilation as filler, and '15 Intead + Brown' an uneven track that starts of like a Mike Skinner b-side before degenerating into a trance version of a Vampire Weekend track – which might sound interesting in theory but doesn't quite come through in execution. The trouble with the album is that while the influences could cater to most taste, there isn’t a defined unique sound that someone could say “Yes, that’s The Shoes”. While it can be great when an artist decides to diversify rather than produce carbon copy music, there still needs to be a style.
Overall though, a decent enough album with moments of excellence but not enough to make a whole.