The Chemical Bros - 'No Geography' Album Review
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, better known by their mysterious moniker ‘The Chemical Brothers’, are responsible for one of my earliest memories of music in their electric 2006 hit ‘Galvanise’, which I distinctively remember being played to me on repeat on the drives to and from school back when I was just a wee lad. And while that track certainly left an imprint on me I didn’t find myself returning to them until their 2015 album Born In The Echoes, a project that combined some of the fuzziness and rawness of their earlier work with a newer electronic direction. On their new album No Geography, The Chemical Brothers make little to no effort to innovate, sticking with the harsh and unfiltered sounds that I loved about their first few albums and as a result, it is some of the most fun I’ve had this year listening to music.
Going into this album I was already expecting to love it based off of the strong run of singles running up to the project, but it really comes together cleaner than I could’ve imagined in the tracklist of No Geography as each track flows wonderfully into the next, creating a hypnotic river of alien sounds. A lot of the sounds used across this album are ripped right from the early 90’s as the opener ‘Eve Of Destruction’ demonstrates with Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora setting a somewhat pre-apocalyptic tone over these pelting synth notes that really take over your headphones before breaking down into a funky disco-y bassline. From here The Chemical Brothers pretty much do what they do best, mix funky rhythms with a hard hitting electronic edge and there is never a dull moment as a result. From the wacky and glitchy ‘Bango’ to the effortlessly groovy and catchy ‘Got To Keep On’, the duo manages to blend eerie and experimental electronic synths with conventionally banging basslines.
With this odd pairing comes a juxtaposition in tone along side it, as most track have some sort of positive and inspiring lyrical content but break down into these dramatic and dark electronic beat drops that really but a damper on the inspiring vibe. While this is clearly intentional, at points it stops tracks like ‘Got To Keep On’ from being fun summer hits when there is a mental overload of reverb in the middle of the track. However on most of the tracklist this works out in their favour, like on the fantastic ‘MAH’ or ‘Free Yourself’ that is just the most classically Chemical Brothers track on here, overloading the ears with these jarring and obnoxious sirens that I initially hated but grew to love the more they interpolated them within the beat as the track goes on.
The standout song of the album however has to be the incredible ‘We’ve Got To Try’ which combines some of the best sample work they’ve ever done with an absolutely mind melting and off-kilter electronic breakdown that sounds like it was stolen directly from the year 3000. While some of the tracks suffer from repetition at 4 and 6 minutes a piece the absolutely monstrous breakdowns some of these tracks devolve into are so worth the build up. There’s a really a lot to love here and not all that much to hate as The Chemical Brothers put the phrase ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ into action on No Geography, proving that you don’t have to innovate to sound as fresh as ever.
Listen to the album in full below: