I read a recent interview with the Chemical Brothers where they talked about how pleased they were with their third album, Surrender, and how they had to consciously stop comparing the tracks they were recording for their fourth album to that allaegdly perfect masterwork. All I can say to that is "THANK GOD". A couple of tracks aside ("Out Of Control", "Hey Boy Hey Girl"), I thought that Surrender was a gigantic pile of toss. It was a limpid retread of themes which had been percolating in the Chemical Brothers' recordings since 1993. In turning their back on what they consider to be their most perfect work, the Chems have come up with the album I was expecting Surrender to be.
The first half of the album is flawless. The woozy swagger of "Come With Us" blends beautifully into the dubby disco-house stylings of "It Began In Afrika". This leads to a retooled version of "Galaxy Bounce" from the Tomb Raider (now with an ending!) and one of the highlights of the album, the woozy haze of their current single, "Star Guitar". Words can't describe how great this track is. It easily compares to their best efforts; in fact, this is the track that delivers on the promise hinted at by "It Doesn't Matter" from Dig Your Own Hole. Things mellow out a little bit with the subdued electro workout "Hoops", then things pick back up with the demented music box that makes up the main hook of "My Elastic Eye". Beth Orton makes her now-obligatory appearance on the gloriously trippy "The State We're In", which leads into "Denmark", a bouncy house number filtered through the Chemical world view. This barrells straight into the sine-wave workout "Pioneer Skies, itself merely an appetizer for ending track "The Test", featuring Richard Ashcroft in one of the strongest things he's recorded since leaving The Verve.
The main thing going for this album is its diversity. All of the tracks have a distinct sound and style, yet somehow they all come together as a cohesive unit. I can't think of a better way of sequencing this album, nor can I think of any tracks that sound out of place or awkward. Best of all, the entire album clocks in at just under an hour, entertaining you without exhausting you. I was terrified that the Chems had completely lost the plot when they released Surrender. I'm happy to report that Come With Us proves they've still got what it takes to release quality material.
DAN'S RATING: GRREAT!