The Chemical Brothers ‘Further’ – Review

23 Jun

For the last couple of albums The Chemical Brothers have been too dependent on guest vocalists – like Gorillaz but without the great tunes. Their rotating army of singers have ensured chart smashing singles aplenty but this resulted in albums that felt strung together and directionless. It is telling therefore that ‘Further’ is their first album not to feature any guests. It is a brave move and definitely one that was needed to get some life back into a group that were once considered to be at the cutting edge of electronic music but haven’t been in over a decade.

If their last album was too familiar and safe then they have certainly fixed that part of the problem. Aside from the lack of support artists, ‘Further’ shows signs of change in other areas as well. There is no obvious hands aloft anthem, which (either by design or not) makes this a much more consistent album. It doesn’t feel like they’ve been searching for a hit, so now the album is the star rather than one particular song. But without the usual calling points, this is a difficult album to get a grip on.

Things takes far too long to get going, especially as the record itself is only eight tracks long. It opens with ‘Snow’, a pretty but slight song that mainly serves as an introduction to the already excessively long ‘Escape Velocity’. They spend 12 minutes umming and ahhing over where to take the song and they never really reach a conclusion. However once the momentum has been set things don’t really slow down. Despite what can only be described as a yawning start ‘Further’ really springs into life on ‘Horse Power’, a song that finally reminds you why this band were once considered to be one of the best in their field. The good vibes continue on ‘Swoon’, which is just about the best thing on here, and also the song that most recalls their early work. The album closer is called ‘Wonders of the Deep’ and it ends the album on a euphoric and hopeful note.

For the most part this is atmospheric and well thought out dance music but at times it feels like (high energy) music for airports. ‘Another World’ and ‘Dissolve’ have no personality and they don’t really progress the album in any way. Chemical Brothers have always been one of the more faceless groups in a very faceless scene but even for them this is bland stuff. There is no meaning behind the songs, there is no recognizable trait that they have stamped onto the album and without anything truly buzzing that makes this a fairly flat ride. I’m not saying they should have pasted on a ‘Do It Again’ or ‘Galvanize’ just for the sake of it, but the album is definitely lacking some balls.

Perhaps that is the point. I’m not saying that they deliberately steered clear of hits, but they almost certainly intended to make an album that works as an album. On those terms ‘Further’ can be considered a success, if not a complete success. What they probably didn’t intend was to make such a personality free record. It’s long, yet short on songs, it takes a lifetime to build but at least it goes out on a high. If they can combine this new-found adventure with a bit more sparkle next time around then they will be laughing.



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