The Chemical Brothers


When I think of the role that the Chemical Brothers have played in my adult life, this incomplete singles collection, coming just five years after their last hits package, doesn’t really hit the spot. After buying their first two EPs as the Dust Brothers (Fourteenth Century Sky and Mercury Mouth) in the mid 1990s, I got to see them play the Hacienda as their debut single as The Chems (‘Leave Home’) debuted in the top 40. As well as playing that and ‘Song To The Siren’(tellingly not included here) they ended on a shuddering loop from ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ by The Beatles, over which they dubbed howling machine noise and air raid sirens. This would eventually become ‘Setting Sun’ a song they released with Noel Gallagher and probably the strangest single to ever get to number one in the UK charts.

They had taken the exact moment 1960s linear pop had been deconstructed and made to chase its own tail and revitalised it so that it had a context for the 1990s. They offered Noel Gallagher the chance to put his money where his mouth was: to become as exciting in the 1990s as The Beatles were in the 1960s. He baulked at this and despite all of his subsequent talk about Be Here Now being based on loops from NWA and how kids in the Bronx were into Oasis, he leapt over the shark at that very moment and his band sank into mediocrity.

From that night in the Hacienda onwards The Chemical Brothers would surprise and delight me on a semi-regular basis mainly down to their overwhelming live shows and inventive DJ sets rather than the singles that they released. (There’s an argument to be had for the duo being better DJs than they are musicians and their mix album Live At The Heavenly Social Volume 1 gives some weight to it.) That’s not to say there aren’t astounding moments on this album (‘Galvanize’, ‘Do It Again’, ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’) but it gives credence to the myth put about by bedroom bound bloggers and the cowardly seeming, home-clubber critics. Their tiresomely standard line is that the duo made ‘dance music for indie kids’. You know, the sort that ‘proper clubbers’ wouldn’t listen to. Instead supposedly they made clunky rock music on synthesizers that only the most arhythmical of white, middle class students would dance to based around comedy break beats, featuring e-damaged baggy/indie stars for hire on vocals.

To anyone other than the blindly prejudiced, this is arrant nonsense of course but compilations like this do nothing other than to play up to these misconceptions. Featured are the bad (‘Believe’ ft. Kele Okereke) and the ugly (‘Let Forever Be’ ft. Noel Gallagher) as well as the admittedly good (‘Out Of Control’ ft. Barney Sumner) instead of the inspired (‘Private Psychedelic Reel’ is missing).

This however, is a Very Positive Review. Go out and buy this immediately while it is still a double pack. For a taste of everything great about The Chemical Brothers, skip the first disc (the new track ‘Keep My Composure’ is a bit meh) and head straight to the Electronic Battle Weapons 1-10 bonus disc. What you have are ten pulverising cuts that take you through acid house via Naked Under Leather in Manchester, The Heavenly Social in The Albany and Turnmills into the big room at Fabric and beyond. This has nothing to do with wildly inaccurate comparisons to Bentley Rhythm Ace or Fatboy Slim and everything to do with Phuture, Derrick May, Andrew Weatherall, Plump DJs and so on. The Eagle eared will spot that these are the bare bones of tracks like ‘It Began In Africa’ and ‘It Doesn’t Matter’ remixed beyond an inch of their lives and given that essential set closer status. For their size and age, The Chemical Brothers are an awesome band and seem to have gotten over the slump that they hit with the albums Come With Us and to a lesser extent Push The Button. On the basis of their last album and better than ever live shows, they are as good as they have been in years. It would be a shame that the public at large didn’t realise this because the duo or their label were too busy fannying about with unnecessary anthologies.

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