Time was when you could bank on a new Chemical Brothers album every few years, like a gift transported from some muddy field or mega rave somewhere in the UK right to your cranium. They have spent the last two and half decades making music that often assaulted the senses, and live they’re an act that not only cracks your eardrums, but imprints images in your head that you may not always want to remember: their visuals are memorable, and often overwhelming. Just look at the video above (and add it to Do It Again (Live) for starters) and you get the picture. However, much as I love their music and have never had a Chems album that I’ve not liked, after 2010’s Born In The Echoes (itself a comparatively long five years after 2010’s Further) I wasn’t sure we’d even get another record from them.
Ed left them as a live outfit in 2015, and though visual collaborator Adam Smith admirably filled in – they were still incredible at Glastonbury in 2015, where I buzzed to them in their traditional Sunday night Other Stage slot – it felt like it may be the end of a road for a band that pretty much taught me how to dance in a field. In fact as a band, they’ve pretty much soundtracked – like anyone else of *cough* a certain age – my entire raving lifespan. Exit Planet Dust came out a whopping 24 (yes, TWENTY FOUR) years ago, but it blew my socks off then and still sounds absolutely crisp and fresh as it did then. Named after their previous Dust Brothers moniker (they reputedly nicked it from Beastie Boys producers, never thinking they’d ever be successful enough for it to matter) the album introduced us to many Chemical Brothers staples: acid 303s, growling leads, huge drum fills, sampled vocals, guitar licks and whooshing, discombobulating sounds and melodies. It wasn’t all eye-popping peak-time bangers though, because they have also made a name making more blissed-out tracks (see One Too Many Mornings from that very album) and seeking out collaborations with artists that fitted their unique template.
I say unique ironically, as one criticism through their hugely successful career has been an accusation – lazy, in my opinion – that they keep making the same record or that they’re unoriginal. I think that would be on firmer ground if a) anyone else consistently sounded like them and b) there wasn’t the great variation within their sound across all their albums. Some of the songs I most love from the last 30 years of electronic music (and that I still own on vinyl) are from the Chems: It Began In Afrika, Come With Us, The Golden Path, Hey Boy Hey Girl, Chemical Beats Out Of Control and The Private Psychedelic Reel (god, I’m getting nostalgic here) and of course their enduring work with Q-Tip, Galvanize and Go (two of my favourite tracks). They sounded amazing, their videos were groundbreaking (I still love watching Hey Boy, and thinking ‘oh, I used to dance there’) and live they were almost unrivalled in the electronic music scene. I’ve seen them live half a dozen times, and they’ve never disappointed. Though I still wish I’d been to Red Rocks.
So the news that Ed was back and a new album was coming left me with mixed feelings. Was it going to be up to their standard? And if not, should you bow out gracefully? We’re not getting any younger, and it’s a long time since we were freewheeling hedonists in the 90s and 00s. Of course, i shouldn’t have worried. Even if there is a little of the law of diminishing returns in play, a few listens to No Geography and it feels like slipping on an old pair of jeans. And I still get that Proustian rush back to some memorable live experiences as soon as those familiar sounds fill the ears. The fact they’ve made it with just the kit from their early albums feels a nice pushback against the over-compressed, quantized, perfectly melodic electronic music we’ve been bred into these days.
I hope it gets them some new fans too. I know they’re touring, and I know I’ll want to go. And part of me feels a bit sad that younger crew today won’t get to hear Hey Boy Hey Girl for the first time back when, and this ‘what the FUCK it this’? Whatever you may think of them, few have lasted as long as they have, and there’s a reason for that.
But more importantly, what do you think?
Love this …
As we start a 4 month hiatus from new music and bring back the clock to albums that we personally love but have slipped by the other brothers on ThisIsNotHappening; I predict that the rest of you will find that picking something that nobody has but you’ll hang your hat on is a hard task. This month I’ve gone for a recent favourite in our house, Nick Mulvey’s “Wake Up Now”.
Nick Mulvey has a special place in my world. His first album had just been released in 2014 when Hayley and I first got together and his music was the soundtrack to many of our early memories. His first album came with a fair bit of accolade and had medium commercial success. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him numerous times and with each time the crowds got bigger. His sound is along the lines of folk he has the ability to connect with people (especially live) and has built a dedicated fan base around the UK and the globe with his gigs routinely selling out.
In the September of 2017 he released his second album “Wake Up Now”. As for many of us allot can change in 3 years. Both internally and externally. I think we can all agree the world had changed a fair bit between 2014-2017 and his lyrics had become more reflective of world humanity and environmental issues. He also had his first child. All of us being fathers on this blog can agree that this impacts everything in your life; especially how we see the world that we now need to guide our children through.
I have read a few articles how Nick Mulvey is a very spiritual person which is very evident on this album. There are some pretty deep thoughts translated throughout his songs. This mixed with his worldly view it is very evident that this album has a message; wake up now. Wake up to how we’re treating fellow humans and the planet we live on. Not many people are doing this these days it seems. Even Bob Geldof and Bono seemed to have piped down as of late. I like that Nick is doing this.
When I first approached this album I was excited; but hesitant. I wasn’t fully ready for his message. The song that gripped me was “Imogen”. My daughter was in her first year and many of the lyrics hit straight to the bone. They still do every time is listen to it.
Throughout the album there is a natural progression he has taken from his first album. The songs are more complex and layered. Many have been written to be played out live. I recently saw him perform this without his band. Just a man and a guitar and it was amazing.
Why do I like Nick Mulvey and why did I choose this album? Good question. I guess it’s because he makes good music, music that makes you smile, music that makes you sing along… and isn’t you’re not careful music that may open your eyes and try to be a better person.
I’m not sure what the reaction will be from you all. It may be a little like marmite. Hayley likes it, the kids like it and so do I. It’s something that I can put on and everyone enjoys. Hopefully you’ll have a similar result. Enjoy brothers.
It’s like the Wu song… without swearing so I can play it around the kids!
As 2018 draws to a close I present to you my yearly round up. First and foremost we have been picking music for each other for over 6 years which is crazy; all of our lives have gone through changes but month after month we present each other with fantastic music. On that note I really struggled this year with albums on a whole; not only what we each brought to the table on a monthly basis but also finding end to end albums that I loved. There was some fantastic music in 2018 but more from a singles aspect than albums in my opinion. Amongst allot of drab albums there were some fantastic stand outs for me though. Here are my favourite albums and singles of 2018 in no particular order.
Royce 5’9 – Book of Ryan
Evidence – Weather Or Not
Leon Bridges – Good Thing
Sean Price – Imperious Rex
Dan Mangan – More Or Less
Maribou – Kingdoms In Colour
Tunng – Songs You Make At Night
Masta Ace & Marco Polo – A Breukelen Story
Jon Hopkins – Singularity
Nas – Nasir
Moses Sumney – Rank & File
Childish Gambino – This Is America
DJ Koze – Pick Up
MorMor – Waiting For The Warmth
Aesop Rock – klutz
Maribor State – Nervous Ticks
Little Dragon – Lover Chanting
Planningtorock – Beula Loves Dancing
Defari – It’s Like I’m You
Smif N Wesson – Let It Go
Marlow – Lost Arts
Eminem – Killshot
Over to you brothers…
I loved the Rhye debut but then lost touch with them … Spotify told me to listen to this, so I did. And I love it. I don’t know the original but this track is a beauty all in it’s own right. Oooof. I am pretty blown away by this one.