The Chemical Brothers - Surrender
Surrender, The Chemical Brothers’ third album, was the sort of record bound to provoke charges of “selling out”, it being a deliberately more accessible affair than its predecessors, Exit Planet Dust and Dig Your Own Hole. In fact, with more melodies, more vocalists, and more variation between tracks, it comes close to being a straight out “pop” album.
Music: Response is a breaks work-out in the manner of Leave Home, but with almost instant appeal. It has a better sense of build, propulsion, and, with its female cry of “I got what you want/ I got what you need”, is just far sexier. Under the Influence has, on top of heart-stopping bass, the sort of frenzied noise that may just have your granny throwing shapes. Hey Boy Hey Girl, a number one single in 1999, has not deteriorated at all with age. These dance moments are appealing without ever seeming cheesy.
Like their contemporaries Death In Vegas, The Chemical Brothers have excellent taste in guest vocalists, and show interest in expanding their range beyond the dancefloor, if not quite to the same extent.
Disco-monster Out of Control features Bernard Sumner and Bobby Gillespie on singing duties. As Gillespie is virtually inaudible, one gets the feeling it's the symbolism that counts here. Sumner also takes guitar and writing credits, so expect the sort of enjoyably dumb lyrics (“maybe you think my moustache is too much”) that went hand-in-hand with New Order.
Asleep From Day, featuring the reliably gorgeous voice of Hope Sandoval, sounds like it was made to be listened to while lying in the grass on a summer’s day. Considering some of the fantastic collaborations she's been involved in (think The Jesus and Mary Chain and Death In Vegas), it's no small praise to say this is her best. Album closer Dream On is a chill-out lullaby, with Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue on vocals. As is often the case, the big name guests tend to give the least interesting results, and here it’s the turn of Noel Gallagher on the vaguely psychedelic hit Let Forever Be.
The Sunshine Underground is a more successful attempt at far-outness, yet manages to keep within the dance-template, while the funky Orange Wedge sounds like a nineties update of seventies blaxploitation cool.
Surrender apparently wanted to follow in the footsteps of those other great dance records of its decade, Screamadelica and Leftism. Like those two albums (and unlike, say, The Prodigy's work), there is little in the way of rough edges. This is coupled with a desire not just to unite people, but also: dance with indie rock, the present with the past, at-home listening with clubbing. For some, this policy might just be too inclusive. However, if you really want to gauge the brilliance of this album on its own terms, all you need to do is take a listen to its disappointing follow-up.