Our Chemical Romance
In the 1990s, electronica’s “big beat” sub-sub-subgenre proved that dance music, with some sonic trappings of metal and rap, could bang heads as well as nod them. The Chemical Brothers were one of a handful of acts to affix to techno this accessible public face. Halfway through this new decade, however, their counterparts Fatboy Slim, the Prodigy, and the Crystal Method are struggling to stay relevant. Push the Button not only keeps the Chemical Brothers relevant, it keeps them interesting.Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons return to their roles as generalists in digital hybridization after recent psychedelic iffiness. On a just planet, the DFA-style stomper “The Big Jump” gets Mobyâ€šÃ„Ã´s levels of airplay. Bollywood and Middle Eastern influences appear in the lush “Hold Tight London,” the glitchy “Shake Break Bounce,” and two hip-hop slow-burns, “Galvanize” and “Left Right.” For the festival crowd, “Marvo Ging” and “Surface to Air” are odes to raver joy best played in headphones or in concert to pogoing thousands.
Granted, mistakes are made here, too. The jazzy center of “Come Inside” is mood-killer inside floor-filler, and “Close Your Eyes” falls just short as a Flaming Lips-esque lullaby. But when Kele Okereke of the Bloc Party sings “I need you to believe” over a dense techno theme, the Chemical Brothers’ edgy variations on that theme convert what could be a mindless dance motto into a plea for a fair shake. Push the Button may repeat the structure of their 1994 debut Exit Planet Dust, but like that album it also repeats great sounds in great ways. Only the best club music does that.