The Chemical Brothers – Surrender – Review

The Chemical Brothers

Surrender (Astralwerks)
by Lex Marburger

Well, it’s been almost half a year since Surrender came out, and we finally got a copy in-house. I’d been anticipating this album for a few years, seeing how Dig Your Own Hole was a watershed album, crossing over into uncharted electronic territory. But now they claim to’ve “transcended” Big Beat, the style of electronica they helped invent, characterized by layered funk and rock beats, tweaked noise howls, and an altogether overwhelming bass sound; essentially “Block Rockin’ Beats” is the template.

So what are The Chemical Brothers going for now? Well, Surrender apparently is the result of excessive touring and a nostalgic retreat to the late ’60s. Though “Music: Response” ties back to Dig Your Own Hole, the following track, “Under the Influence,” is an under-achieving piece of dance floor techno that makes Daft Punk sound like the revolutionaries they were supposed to be. “Out of Control” follows suit, with the addition of vocals from New Order and Primal Scream to soften the emotional disappointment of the music which relies a little too heavily on the EQ knob twists and drop-outs the Chem Bros are known for. “Orange Wedge” lightens up the mood like helium, biting the Can “Spoon” (Ege Bamyasi) style for the bass and rhythm tracks, and then twisting artificial feedback and old fashioned turntable scratching around themselves. The video single “Let Forever Be,” a direct Beatles rip off – we’ve all heard it, right? – doesn’t suck, but that’s because they stole from the best. Stretching to eight and a half minutes, “The Sunshine Underground” sounds like a remix of “The Private Psychedelic Reel,” not bad in itself (if you like that trippy tech feel), but not a real progression of musical style, either. Especially when it breaks into that incessant four-on-the-floor dancebeat (yawn). The chick from Mazzy Star appears on “Asleep From Day” sounding like, well, a souped up Mazzy Star tune. Nowhere near as exciting as “Where Do I Begin?,” but for a Mazzy Star song, hey, cool. “Got Glint?” uses that extremely tired dance beat again, the one they use almost exclusively in their live sets, proving that kids hopped up on goofballs will dance to anything. That’s followed by “Hey Boy Hey Girl,” another techno-disco track that never gets off the ground. You keep expecting it to go somewhere, but it never really does. The title track plunders psyche-funkin’-delia again, pulling out backward masking and “hypnotic” repetition, while the closer, “Dream On” would sound better if they were trying to stuff the original into a garbage disposal and remix the tatters, but instead it’s a collaboration with Mercury Rev which manages to steal from both indie rock and psychedelia and come up short. Perhaps I poured too much anticipation into Surrender. After all, they’re not gods, just a couple of history students from England. They had their chance to change the world, and they did… a little. Now we have to find the next torch-bearer. By the way, the last track even has that fade-out, fade-back-in thing that pissed everybody off when Led Zeppelin first did it on “Thank You” all those years ago. Just thought you should know.
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