The Chemical Brothers, success is undeniable. Credited as pioneers of the 90’s dance music scene. Along with groups like The Prodigy, they have platinum selling albums under their belts such as their 1995 debut Exit Planet Dust and have still had huge success late in their career. Tracks such as the 2005 single Galvanise are now one of the groups most revered tracks. Now the group, made up of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, are back with their first full length in five years, Born In The Echoes.
The album kicks its first 15 minutes off with the three singles used to promote the album, of which I am a fan of none. The first, Sometimes I Feel So Deserted throughout holds a very unenthused synth pattern throughout, it has some drums put through a hideous lo-pass filter of some sort, which builds up to a drop that is almost identical to how the track started off. The second single Go is just simply a fusion of EDM and hip-hop gone wrong. The third single Under Neon Lights while less EDM influenced than the rest, and featuring vocals from Annie Clark of St. Vincent fame, still came off as a very uninteresting and disappointing track overall.
The fourth track EML Ritual has a beat so similar to Under the Neon Lights that I almost didn’t notice the transition between tracks. The vocal samples used on this track are pitched down and make this track feel like it drags on longer than it should. It also has the same problem as the first track, with the drop of the track not having a huge amount different from the rest of the track.
Two tracks on this album that I did enjoy were I’ll see you there and Reflexion. The former at some points almost sounds like a very chaotic jazz track, with synth sounds that are very close to being trumpets or a saxophone, as well as a great live drum track to back it up, the EDM elements of this track are also mixed very well together with the rockier elements of this song which I enjoyed a lot. The latter, Reflexion, is a more calm and warmer techno track, and the main reason I liked this track is that the synth leads reminded me a lot of the new Four Tet album, Morning/Evening.
Unfortunately after Reflexion it goes downhill. The group at least change it up from the more EDM orientated first half but it could most definitely have been done better. Taste Of Honey musically tries to sound dark and moody, but with lyrics like “if you don’t have no money, you won’t get no honey” its hard to take it seriously, and when the sample of the buzzing bee appears, Taste Of Honey simply becomes the most laughable track on the album. The title track Born In The Echoes doesn’t fair much better, coming off as a boring synth pop track with a robotic vibe that wears thin very quickly.
The albums final two tracks, Radiate and Wide Open see the group going for an anthemic sort of vibe, but what appear to be grasps for emotional triumph end up sounding weak and melodramatic. Radiate builds and builds with sharp synths and strings but with very little to offer in terms of actual emotion, and Wide Open simply sounds like a cheesier version of the title track.
While I can appreciate the legacy that The Chemical Brothers have, I can’t help but feel that they are falling down the same path the Prodigy did when they returned this year with The Day Is My Enemy, and that is a path of stale, mediocre and unexciting music. Although with The Chemical Brothers headlining the North Stage at this years Creamfields festivals, it shows that plenty of people are still enjoying the duo’s music, so I guess they are doing something right, I obviously just haven’t picked up on it yet.