Reviews

Chemical Brothers

There is a crucial turning point in a musician's career that comes after the first rush of critical acclaim, commercial success, and being dubbed the "next big thing." This is usually followed by material that is just as good, if not better, than the early offerings but gets a slightly lower response from audiences (and critics). If the musician manages to survive past a certain time frame (say, five years) and continues to produce music that is superior to what is being churned out around him, then his validity and impact are not only beyond question, but used as a reference point for other aspiring artists.

The Chemical Brothers have reached this elusive point, a rarity for any type of musician and practically an impossibility for those of the electronic persuasion. This year marks the tenth anniversary of their first-ever single, the inimitable "Song to the Siren" (when they were called the Dust Brothers). Their retrospective singles collection, Singles 93-03, is a "greatest hits" of sorts. The effect of their highly original compositions, lined up next to each other, is ear-shatteringly powerful.

The earlier numbers, from the bone-chilling wails of the aforementioned opener to the funk-fused crunching breaks of "Chemical Beats," "Leave Home," and "Block Rockin' Beats," stick in your head without the help of a singer (the odd vocal sample notwithstanding). Then there are the hypnotic swirls of "Star Guitar," the aptly titled "The Private Psychedelic Reel," and the dance-floor stormer, "Hey Boy Hey Girl," which showcase the Brothers' unerring ability to arrange a freestyle electronic-based track into a grippingly infectious pop song format without falling into the trap of becoming gratuitously cheesy. When the Chemicals use live vocalists like Oasis's Noel Gallagher ("Setting Sun," "Let Forever Be"), Richard Ashcroft ("The Test"), and New Order's Bernard Sumner ("Out Of Control"), as well as two new tracks with rapper K-Os ("Get Yourself High") and the Flaming Lips ("The Golden Path"), they give their guests a new, inventive, and deep dimension that was never quite explored within the artists' own groups.

Rock, hip-hop, and electronic influences are worked into the group's signature low-slung, bottom-heavy bass booms, devastating breakbeats, and distorted samples and loops. Tightly formed, immaculately manicured, and painstakingly produced, these singular numbers are bombastically energetic, mind-blowing, and creative, proving that the Chemicals are not only relevant, but standard-setting.

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Lily Moayeri