Where would we be without The Chemical Brothers? For the best part of the last two decades, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons have bucked trends, fucked zeitgeists and provided us with some of the most insane dance-floor material ever committed to wax, creating über-iconic tracks along the way that seemed to effortlessly ingratiate themselves into dusty warehouse spaces or festival fields. But something, somewhere went askew. Perhaps exasperated with the ephemeral nature of commercial success with which the likes of Exit Planet Dust or Dig Your Own Hole might have eschewed, The Chems’ swift procession into slicker, cleaner-sounding territory – ‘Galvanise’, for example – was a key indicator of a newer approach that, ultimately, they’re still riding upon.
It’s not all so sallow, of course, but The Chemical Brothers that we would have lost our shit over years back are further slipping away from our skyward hands and latest effort Born In The Echoes isn’t exactly reaching out in turn. As above and so below, or ‘Go’ ft. Q Tip as it’s called on the record. Funky, full of that rejuvenating energy and certified first single material, it’s a testament to the position that The Chemical Brothers have made for themselves. For what it’s worth, it’s a decent track, but it never quite reaches the lofty heights and breakneck dexterity found (in snippets) on the rest of the album or previous efforts.
‘Just Bang’ is dark and dirty house that is rhythmically so far removed from the pair’s sound that it’d be difficult to call a Chem’s track without the quirky sample-driven melody. ‘Reflexion’ is much more like it, if ‘it’ is a compelling look-back to the hypnotic, swirling melodies of old – think the energy levels of ‘Let Forever Be’ or ‘Hey Boy, Hey Girl’. And, while the album overwhelmingly pursues the fresher mission-statement of the noughties, it does so at times with a confident grace that makes for a bearable listening experience.
Unfortunately, Born In The Echoes is peppered with tracks that just don’t add up to the kind of quality that Simons and Rowlands are now household names for. Bizarre elements like ‘EML Ritual’ or ‘Taste of Honey’ are off-putting and although might break up the record, do so with clunky, ill-fitting sluggishness. There might be enough here to state that this a good album, but there isn’t enough to call it a great one.