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The Chemical Brothers - 'We Are The Night'
(Monday July 9, 2007 3:36 PM )

Released on 02/07/07
Label: Virgin

With the rebirth of dance being noisily proclaimed after the Justice and Simian Mobile Disco albums dropped through letterboxes, it seems like a good time for post-rave's most resilient sons to return. Those that noticed things on the up over the last couple of years have seen the prolific European scene fusing elements from dance's myriad pigeonholes with the same irreverent fervour that made The Chemical Brothers such an enticing proposition when they emerged in the mid-'90s.

But whilst the current European soundtrack draws on elements of minimalism, the textures of trance, rhythmic patina of broken beat and dubstep's earth-quaking sub bass, Tom and Ed's fifth album still operates at the interface of rock and turbo-charged breakbeat house. That galaxy of film sound effects and beats thunderously compressed into blinding energy flashes. The title track may be an irreproachably skilful example of what they do; yet it somehow fails to engage. Perhaps we've been taking these pills too long and the law of diminishing returns is finally exacting its revenge.

So, the Klaxons are drafted in to lend their eccentric vision and, more importantly, their command of the zeitgeist. And contributors like Midlake aren't so much 'guests' as are The Chemical Brothers themselves, who become guest producers confronted with musical visions as fully realised as that of the Texas band. "Saturate" implies they've been listening to the rave reconfigurations of Booka Shade but the Germans' mastery of restraint is swapped for a tub-thumping chorus of clattering drums and ecstatic synths. Despite the excess, it's a high water-mark here but points at the chief flaw of The Chemical Brothers in 2007.

Whilst they've grown into UK dance music's great live heavyweights - a Glastonbury headliner still capable of prompting mayhem amongst the sodden misery of this year's final performances - with it they've sacrificed subtlety and texture. Exactly what is so exciting about electronic music right now - the thrill of microscopically detailed sound worlds that shift and glide to wring the greatest impact from the slightest change - is what is so glaringly absent. "Burst Generator" feels like it should be the monument at the centre of this record that swallows your doubts and spits them out but a couple of listens reveal a fairground soundtrack, Underworld's "Rez" on steroids, a decade too late.

Startlingly assured sound manipulators they may be but "We Are The Night" feels bloated and ornate amongst the elegant functionalism of post-millennial club music.

    by James Poletti

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