REVIEW: Chemical Brothers – No Geography

Yesterday I visited Corley services on the M6 (just outside Coventry between junctions 3 and 3A, Partridge fans) and couldn’t help but feel like it was a microcosm of everything that was wrong with the UK today.

Luckily, yesterday was also the day Chemical Brothers released a new album to cheer us up.

Or did they?

Well yes, they have released an album. But it ain’t all cheery.

On one hand it’s a celebration of everything that’s great about the Chemical Brothers. On the other it’s the silent rage of Britain, begrudgingly refuelling at 25p a litre over the odds, because they have no other choice.

First, to the happy side.

It’s a bit like a greatest hits, except with all new songs. ‘Bango’ harks back to third album Surrender, and is full of Fatboy Slim era big beats. Similarly, ‘No Geography’ could have been lifted from We Are the Night. ‘Got to Keep On’ joins us from their lost 1977 disco album. We were treated to ‘Free Yourself’ live as early as last summer and it slipped seamlessly into their set alongside the anthems we know like it had always been there. And I love it. It’s the Chemical Brothers continuing to do what they do best.

They’ve gone classic. They’ve gone back to basics. And they’re clearly having a laugh doing it together. Gone are the big name guest appearances that have been the hallmark of albums of the past and on the whole it’s just the two of them plus a few extra vocals and old school techno style samples of quasi sci-fi dialogue.

They won’t have any trouble filling festival fields this summer. This album goes to show they won’t have any trouble doing the same for a few more years to come.

That being said, tracks like ‘The Universe Sent Me’ would be equally at home in a dark and dingy underground venue with sticky floors.

Before this album was released it had already achieved something pretty incredible. How many other artists can say that on their ninth studio album they are still being played on Radio 1? Foo Fighters? Jay-Z? I don’t even know if they would get played any more. The power of this youth/longevity paradox has given them the audacity to do a Bowie. And this brings me on to the other side of the album.

They’ve opened the album with a track about the coming of end of the world, à la Ziggy Stardust. ‘Eve of Destruction’ is the straight man to Flight of the Conchords’ ‘Robot’.  I’m half expecting a binary solo. It has just enough doom and soul to get through it deadpan before hitting the bongo bit from the start of ‘Apache’ by The Sugarhill Gang. It’s a much more bonkers vision of the apocalypse than our Dave’s, perhaps reflective our times. ‘Eve of Destruction’ sets the tone.

‘Free Yourself’ takes on a new meaning – from loosening up enough from the nine to five to dance and have a good time, to a revolutionary call to arms. ‘MAH’ (‘I’m mad as hell, I ain’t gonna take it no more’) brings what has remained an undercurrent of rage to the surface. It’s time to get in to the tank on the album’s cover, drive it down the motorway and show that petrol station who’s boss. ‘Catch Me I’m Falling’ is a sobering end, with a sense of losing something but having no control.

It leaves me concerned for what’s next. Can we and The Chemical Brothers carry on carrying on for another five, ten, twenty years? We need their chemicals, before Radio 1 leaves us behind too and we all end up at Corley Services.

Words by James Spearing.

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