The Chemical Brothers - Further
Rocketing from the ranks of underground electronic musicians, among the few to hit the big time, The Chemical Brothers, aka Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons have always taken pride in challenging the conventions of the mainstream and forging their own path. But the question posed by their latest album – are the duo’s days of breaking the mould behind them?
Not entirely surprisingly, given the fact that the album is intended to be enjoyed while simultaneously accompanied by a visual display, it is a largely instrumental affair, liberated of the string of big name guest vocalists of yore. Far from euphoric sing-alongs such as ‘Hey Boy, Hey Girl’, through which the Bros garnered widespread success in years passed, one could be forgiven for mistaking ‘Further’ for a soundtrack to some arthouse flick (albeit a beautifully composed one at that). Yet has this all been some cunning ploy to divert a listener’s attention away from the tracks, duping them into thinking the duo are still coming up with the goods?
From the get go, opener ‘Snow’ would seem to suggest otherwise, as diced up, detached vocals drift over a backing which sounds akin to what one might produce if you crossed the sound of a malfunctioning pinball machine with that of the drone of an old school internet modem connection being dialled, in a highly enjoyable return to form.
This is only one small facet of what the band has on offer however, with every genre from psychedelia to afrobeat getting a nod, darkly atmospheric break beats and even an off kilter Caribbean flavour pervading following songs. Yet, unfortunately; the album does have its low points – tunes such as ‘Dissolve’ feel as if their only purpose on the album is to kill time and make the track listing up to an already underwhelming eight. Luckily, an indisputable triumph lies in wait in the form of the album’s final bow, ‘Wonders of the Deep’ as a wall of rapturous, uplifting sound crashes down, befitting of the epic, joyous conclusion to a blockbuster.
Not exactly pushing boundaries, it seems the band has seen fit to instead employ the formula which has won them much acclaim, both critical and audience based, in the past. This album may proclaim to be taking their distinctive sound yet further, but upon listening, it is evident that this latest offering sees a duo content to rest on their laurels. That being said, having already scaled the giddy heights of electro-superstardom, there are worse sounds that Rowlands and Simons could rehash. At times like this, one may call to mind the old adage ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Although ‘Further’ is unlikely to cause any controversy, a safe bet if you will, and the lack of any starkly groundbreaking material is intermittently disappointing, through songs such as ‘ Escape Velocity’ and ‘K + B + D’ it’s clear that there isn’t much to fix here. The Chemical Brothers have discovered their winning formula, and they’re sticking to it.