For the fifth straight time, the Chemical Brothers have released an album with an instruction attached. Exit Planet Dust. Dig Your Own Hole. Surrender. Come With Us. Now we’re asked to Push the Button. Typically we oblige, even if we know the formula: pavement-cracking first track featuring old-school hip-hop sample; series of loopy no-pause fillers; melodic earth-love-peace jam; trippy closer.
Button follows said pattern down to the last rubbery bass line and cowbell beat, but it works. “Galvanize” is the latest block rocker, seasoned with Middle Eastern strings and Q-Tip’s nasally call-and-response. We can’t help fall for it. “The Boxer” and “Believe” carry the weight before morphing into the Trainspotting-ly “Hold Tight London” and a pair of pulsers, “Come Inside” and “The Big Jump,” whose annoying disco-synth intro is welcomingly replaced by slimy guitar chugging. “Left Right,” another Chemical trademark, with its drums of doom and guest emcee Anwar’s equally militant chanting (“All my soldiers march”), breaks the sky to make room for the rainbow in “Close Your Eyes.”
But the real stunner is “Shake Break Bounce,” a skittish reggae-influenced track that appears after the melodic earth-love-peace jam and before the trippy closer. Like “Orange Wedge” from ’99’s Surrender, it’s a brief departure from the usual sheet-metal backdrops and a peek into a new hole that’s worth digging.
It’s been ten years since the Chems debuted with Exit Planet Dust, an album that, along with albums by Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead and the Prodigy around the same time, redefined electronic music and provided the most refreshing audio of the ’90s, save for the mainstream emergence of college rock. We don’t hear much from our old friends anymore, but the Brothers still make it out to every party and stay well into the night. We throw down the same drinks and have the same conversations, and no one’s really changed, except for a new haircut or a different girlfriend. The Chemical Brothers take it in just as well, smiling and laughing, shaking, breaking and bouncing.