Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Chemical Brothers

  • Exit Planet Dust [Astralwerks, 1995] A-
  • Loops of Fury EP [Astralwerks, 1996] *
  • Dig Your Own Hole [Astralwerks, 1997] A-
  • Surrender [Astralwerks, 1999] *
  • Music: Response [Astralwerks, 2000] Neither
  • Push the Button [Astralwerks, 2005] A-
  • Brotherhood (Limited Edition) [Virgin, 2008] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Exit Planet Dust [Astralwerks, 1995]
They won't convert you because their main interest is pleasing you--pleasing anybody who's both open-minded enough to conceive techno as a bright sun in the rock cosmos and well-adjusted enough not to start star wars over it. Starts out whomping irrepressibly, ends up schlocking imperturbably, and either way provides the noise, beats, and basslines us earthlings like in our electrically enhanced popular music. Means nothing--except that pleasure is a function of somatic and cultural givens less malleable than mutants have always claimed. A-

Loops of Fury EP [Astralwerks, 1996]
"a little early but thanks anyway" (I think) ("Get Up on It Like This") *

Dig Your Own Hole [Astralwerks, 1997]
Their secret isn't technowizardry, formal daring, or Lord help us eclecticism. As with so many pop wunderkinds, it's spirit--generous, jubilant, unfazed by industrial doom, in love with energy and sound. Noel Gallagher only wishes he had their heart; they say more with a borrowed catch-phrase--"Who is this doin' this type of alphabetapsychedelic funkin'?"--than he can with a whole album of verse-chorus-verse. Of course it matters that they're not retro. But it matters even more that their futurism is neither exclusionary nor puritanical. A-

Surrender [Astralwerks, 1999]
nostalgic--for futurism past, yet--at, what, 29? ("Hey Boy Hey Girl," "Let Forever Be") *

Music: Response [Astralwerks, 2000] Neither

Push the Button [Astralwerks, 2005]
Their genre incontrovertibly passť, they can put futurist games behind them. So, free to do their thing without looking over their shoulders, they turn in their best album since 1996 even though some schmuck from the Charlatans ruins track two. "Believe" and "The Big Jump" rock the block. The Arabian strings of "Galvanize" are augmented-not-improved by the tyrant-bashing rhetoric of "Left Right." And the three abstractions that complete the project clatter, tweetle, shudder, chime, whoosh, and phase. A-

Brotherhood (Limited Edition) [Virgin, 2008]
I delayed bearing down on what sounded like an exceptionally useful "definitive singles collection" because: a) I was never in the mood; and, b) I dreaded the "DJ-only white label vinyl" bonus disc. When I did finally return I found that: a) this album is great for my mood, especially when I can play it loud; and, b) the disco discs, as we used to call them, sound great in my apartment even though they were designed for, well, discos. I know, I like my "dance music" cheap--rarely dance to it, truth be told. But the Brothers were always the hookmeistering FX kings of Big Beat, as we used to call it, and though I miss "Song to the Siren," this is longer and deeper than 2003's Singles 93-03. Leads with the only thing they've ever done that tops the Schoolly D-keynoted "Block Rockin' Beats": 2005's Q-Tip-keynoted "Galvanize," which won them a Grammy with techno in decline and them not. You want proof? Next to "It Began in Afrika," the best disco disc here is "Midnight Madness," one of two new bait cuts. I know, the disco discs are probably cheap, too. But I bet when they come on in der club, fools flood the floor. A-