Monday, May 3rd, 2021

The Chemical Brothers – The Darkness That You Fear

A technicolor dreamcoat of sounds AND takes!


Thomas Inskeep: Twenty-six years after Exit Planet Dust and they’ve still got it, and are still spreading their magic, block rockin’ pixie dust all over, and we should all be thankful.

Ian Mathers: The Chems are far from the first creators of dance music to realize the sometimes surprising power you can generate just by juxtaposing and repeating sampled vocals. It’s a very different sort of power than just something that’s sung through, and when done well, it’s just unlike anything else. Those vocals are possibly aided by something bright and throwback-y in the production that oddly feels like it’s somewhere in the territory between Boards of Canada and the Go! Team (not acts I’ve particularly thought to either compare directly or in the context of the Chemical Brothers), but after a couple of listens I find myself dancing around the living room with a little lump in my throat. (And good on them for properly crediting said vocal samples in the description on YouTube.)

Samson Savill de Jong: The two vocal samples The Chemical Brothers chose here are, initially, annoying and almost atonal. Bicep’s “Apricots” proved that you can take something that ought to be irritating and make it work in the context of a song, particularly in electronic music. But the Chemical Brothers fail to do so here. The samples never feel part of the song, but instead they feel like they’re on top of it. The rest of the song’s elements never quite come together either, and there aren’t enough ideas here to justify the 6 minute runtime, especially since the ones they do have don’t work well enough to stand up to a long listen time.

Jessica Doyle: It has its moments, but there’s nothing interesting enough to overcome the sheer absence of substance that is “Let your heart see the colors all around you.” (It could be that they’re trying to poke fun at such non-thought, but that’s not enough to build a song around either.) 

Claire Biddles: This is fine but the pitchy sub-Nico guest singer (“all arrOOEEUUUNNnnDD you”) is… not the one.

Katherine St Asaph: So are the vocalists supposed to be consistently off-key and muffled in the mix? The bridge, which is both of those things, makes me think so. Lo-fi beats to make Simon Cowell faces to.

Alfred Soto: This rather wan mishmash of Basement Jaxx and Daft Punk might’ve withstood my criticism were not for the schlock vocal placed front and center.

Tim de Reuse: Rowlands and Simons settled into a particular brand of shimmering, heavily layered house music about two decades ago and have not budged much since. I don’t think this would have surprised anyone had it come out a day after “Star Guitar.” Their usual palette of phased hi-hats and distant synth lines meshes together into a cohesive, candy-sweet sensory experience, as always, but the only thing distinctive about this track in the context of their back catalogue is that blasted vocal sample, whose presence here smacks of a sense of obligation, as if they thought it would never be accepted as a standalone single without a lyrical centerpiece. I assure you, brothers — nobody is expecting Fatboy Slim chant-alongs from your immersive prog-house.

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