Tag Archives: The Chemical Brothers

294. Fatboy Slim – “Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars”

I certainly haven’t spun this disk as often as its hit-laden predecessor over the past decade or so.

That’s a shame, because it’s a considerably stronger album in terms of consistency of sound and approach. Gone is the (very successful) inclusion of somewhat gimmicky power-tracks padded out with run-of-the-mill electronic doodles.

Here we see Fatboy adopted an approach more a like a happy hybrid of Moby and The Chemical Brothers. We get the funk/gospel vocal samplings of the former, plays the hardcore squelchy electronica of the latter.

There certainly aren’t the big crossover hits of Fatboy’s last effort, but there are a lot more tracks that I’m happy to hear and hear again.  This would much better as a party album, as the diversity of sounds and rhythms keep interest levels high.

His guest vocalists deliver the goods.  Macy Gray performs the most memorable stuff that I can recall from her.  Love Life and Demons are sultry chillout tracks. Unfortunately, Bootsy Collins is wasted (as in ‘not put to good use’… I’m sure he probably fitted other definitions to, but that’s not unfortunate) on the very weak single on here – Weapon of Choice – a track that was inexplicably given a great Christopher Walken vid:

File under: Surprisingly stellar

293. Fatboy Slim – “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby”

The work of Norman Cook (a.k.a. Fatboy Slim among many different recording aliases) was extremely hard to avoid in the late 1990s.

Along with fellow Brits The Chemical Brothers, he produced some of the biggest crossover dance floor fillers, building a huge following for the so-called ‘Big Beat’ sound.

I had a predilection for seeking Cook out, given his past life as bass player for the much under-rated Housemartins.

The similarity between that poppy outfit and his reincarnation as a DJ and pastiche artist rests on his innate knack for finding a very, very catchy hook.  As Fatboy any subtlety is thrown out the window, as he beats us around the ears with ludicrously contagious catchphrases and musical riffs.

The singles on here are true benchmarks in commercially viable dance music, passing that test of working outside the club environs. The opening two tracks (Right Here, Right Now and Rockafeller Skank) are pretty irresistable:

The rest of the album doesn’t engage at the same level.  Praise You is much less compelling without the video.  Gangster Tripping comes closest to the gems, while too many of the others feel only marginally distinguished.

File under: The trip gets a little tiring

166. The Chemical Brothers – “Surrender”

Album Cover Chemical Brothers Borthers Bros SurrenderThe party continues in my office. The bass in pumping, the crowd are swinging their arms around like they just don’t care (whoever does care about their arms swinging around (other than in the presence of low ceiling fans)?) and the sniffer dogs are having a field day.

OK, that’s all wishful thinking (other than the dogs… and the bass).

Irrespective, I’ve been having fun. This is a pretty strong album. It features one of this insanely catchy songs you’ve probably danced to too many times (well, I have) – this one:

There are some very familiar voices on here, including a blast from my past New Order‘s Bernard Sumner doing that whole dry, talkie vocal thing that has worked well on so many tunes. And Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star sounds as breathy and spacey as ever.

There’s also a vocoder riff on the opener that had me doing Kraftwerk impressions all day (“Musique non-stop, techno-pop”).

So the upshot, is the CBs showcase their roots, and their diversity (Noel Gallagher also gets a rockier workout) and deliver a solid collection. It doesn’t have the consistency of their debut, but it’s still a fiesta of fun.

File under: Buckle under to the beats

165. The Chemical Brothers – “Brothers Gonna Work It Out”

I’m torn on whether to designate this as a CB’s album or “various artists”.  It is a compilation of (mainly) other artists’ tracks, but the duo mix and augment these efforts to such a large extent that it becomes much bigger than merely a sum of the parts.

Album Cover The Chemical Brothers Brothers Gonna Work It OutThe album is a high tempo, raucous melding of old and new, from 70s funk, to the Chemical Bros’ own crunching electronic concoctions. 

As I played this in my office on Friday, anyone walking past might have expected to see a full-blown fiesta going on.

Partying is what this album is all about, and if you’re feeling a little lazy it will certainly substitute for a DJ very adequately.  The set is well-constructed, with sufficient lulls where you could you spark up a conversation with a likely lad(y), and then the required return of rhythms to drown the rejection.

The song selections are a testament to the duo’s key influences and contemporaries, including Meat Beat Manifesto, Renegade Soundwave and Love Corporation.  

Worth noting is the thematic nature within parts of the “set”, such as the interplanetary lyrics sampled around the Mars Needs Women sample.  It all adds to the fun.

File: Sibling success

164. The Chemical Brothers – “Exit Planet Dust”

After what seems like an eternity of rootsy albums, it is a huge relief to enter the electronic arena.

The Chemical Brothers Exit Planet Dust album coverAnd  I feel like I’ve walked into the MCG of beats-driven music. 

This debut release (under this moniker) from this UK duo is a stellar example of this genre.  This was the breakthrough album for British Bigbeat, preceding the subsequent efforts from Fatboy Slim, Prodigy and others. 

As you’ve probably picked up on, I don’t spend too much time with doofy stuff.  But, donning the catchcry of all Philistines, I know what I like. 

Perhaps as a nod to the acoustic leanings acknowledged above, I do like a rhythm that could have been generated by a human whacking something.  And much of the time the CBs chose such pounding, built around sampled snares and rimrolls. 

Sure, there’s loads of beeps and squelchs, but the organic/inorganic ratio is bigger on the left hand side.  Likewise, there is a recognition that riffs of some description matter.

The result here is a seamlessly constructed set of pieces that retain their hypnotic element.  The vocals are sparse but effective, especially Beth Orton’s. 

This is fine feat in musicianship and inventiveness. And a welcome relief.

File under: Hello Planet Must