For over 25 years the Chemical Brothers have been a name synonymous with the UK big beat and dance music scene. Formed in Manchester (meeting at University), London-born Ed Simons and Oxfordshire’s Tom Rowlands have released a catalogue of iconic hits over the years, and their 10th studio album, For That Beautiful Feeling (on the Virgin EMI label), looks to add to that stellar list.
Immediately into it, Intro acts as an amuse-bouche for Live Again, which features artist Halo Maud on vocals. Funky, bouncy basslines, with a synth moving in waves through pitches and some addictively tinny hi hats which take turns in weaving in prominence during the track. No Reason and Goodbye both provide the listener with hefty drops that would come with a height restriction if it was a ride at a theme park! Synths drop like melodic rainfall, and a dirty pitch on the melody of the former that I honestly felt like it was going to damage my speakers. Both tracks have fantastic beats that really drive the tracks along – truly in step with some of the Chemicals’ best efforts.
Taking the foot off the accelerator for a moment, Fountains is a down tempo, groovy tune, with unmistakable distorted notes that test your ear drums with an addictive, sour quality. Magic Wand follows with a beat that feels like a homage to late 80’s hip hop, Bomb the Bass-eque quality, with contemporary synths over beautiful honey vocals giving perfect contrast. Similarly, The Weight feels like it leans into club music history, with guitars giving an amazing funk quality, instantly making me drawing comparisons to 1995 hit Leave Home (albeit more down tempo) – trust me, this is praise of the highest order.
Indie god Beck lends his vocals to Skipping Like a Stone which has a driving, progressively thumping beat and winding siren quality that will no doubt lead to speeding tickets being produced to those listening in their cars. In contrast, The Darkness That You Fear (Harvest Mix) starts off with acoustic guitars and progresses to light uplifting synths and well placed inclusion of bongos to give a real summer vibe – the soft, feminine vocals melding perfectly with the instrumentation.
Next up, Feels Like I Am Dreaming starts with the sound of jet engines, flying overhead & transporting you into this thumping track, using a range of drums to really go at the listener, dirty bass that makes your ear drums vibrate under the strain. This is the Chemical Brothers at their very best, and leads into final track, For That Beautiful Feeling. The second track to feature Halo Maud, this wraps the album up perfectly, slower tempo but with the range of spine tingling synths that could only be Tom & Ed.
For That Beautiful Feeling is an album that picks up where No Geography left off – less vocal ‘featuring’ tracks with a who’s who of vocal artists, and more complex instrumental big beat, as palatable to the ‘no sleep at weekends’ fanatics as it is to the stay at home enthusiasts. The credited vocalists, Halo Maud and Beck, add to the tracks they feature in, but, as with the other vocals, don’t steal the spotlight from the complex instrumentation of each tune, with the stars of the show sat behind the sound desk. Every track could be released as a single and be a smash, every single one containing hooks that claw into your Hippocampus and refuse to leave. Few producers of electro/dance music can claim to have a consistent career at the top spanning over a quarter of a century or more, The Chemical Brothers are one those select few. This album is an outstanding addition to their brilliant legacy.