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The Chemical Brothers

Even Darwin would be hard put to find evidence of evolution in the programmed pop of the Chemical Brothers. The Chems acknowledge as much in the press materials for Push the Button (out this Tuesday), the duo’s fifth proper album in 11 years of studio tinkering, computer programming, and, yes, button pushing. "The new Chemical Brothers album . . . is a follow-up to their first album, and a follow-up to their last album, and a follow-up to the ones in between. One or two of their previous albums are a follow-up to this one." Exactly. I’m sure they’ve acquired a couple of new toys in the past decade and found new ways to mess with the old ones, but any major advances on that front are reduced to subtle sonic flourishes in the bold big-beat hip-hip-informed dance-floor anthems that Brothers (in spirit only) Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons cook up every other year. Push the Button is no exception: the Middle Eastern–sounding string arrangements that create an incessant hook on the opening "Galvanize" work with Q-Tip’s fast-flung rhymes to distinguish the number from the duo’s past singles. But "Galvanize" doesn’t set a particular tone for the album, and it wouldn’t sound out of place on any of the Chems’ previous albums.

Once again, Rowlands and Simons invite a diverse cast of vocalizers to put a pop face on a few key tracks, ensuring that Push the Button is received as more than a well-toned body of instrumental dance trax. Former Charlatans singer Tim Burgess croons soulfully over a stuttering groove filled with robotic blips and beeps on "The Boxer," Kele Okereke of Bloc Party sounds like an angry ghost in the machine of the house-beaten "Believe," and the alluring voice of Anna Lynne (of Trespassers William) floats in and out of range throughout the vaguely tribal "Hold Tight London." Back on the hip-hop side of the tracks, Anwar Superstar provides a potent protest rap to the ominous wash of synths that color "Left Right." The Chems also team up with the Magic Numbers for the dreamy psychedelic pop workout "Close Your Eyes," as if to offer further proof of the versatility that’s established the Chemical Brothers’ place in the pantheon of artists who have by now transcended whatever trend it was that brought them into the spotlight in the first place.


Issue Date: January 21 - 27, 2005
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