As a die hard Chemical Brothers follower I can safely say that after a couple dozen listens and an opportunity to catch the duo at HARD Summer, hearing a nice chunk of the new record live, Born In The Echoes is a great return for the big beat kings and will probably be one of the best releases we'll have all year. Not saying the albums near perfect at all, but even after the initial sensation of curing my fanboy blue balls, I found that the record continued to sound great after many replays, and might have even grown on me.
Born In The Echoes is a noticeable step down in scale compared to 2010's spectacular and epic Further, but that's not to say that it doesn't obtain it's own vibe to stand strong among it's legendary peers in the group's near perfect discography. The opener “Sometime I Feel So Deserted” gives a good indication of where they take a lot of the tracks on the release, minimal introductions of catchy and psychedelic samples that evolve through some top notch progressions. Four to floor techno basslines replace the groups traditional big beat rhythms and for the most part it's a great move since songs like “Reflexion”, the crazy Beatles-esque “EML Ritual”, “Under Neon Lights“, and “Just Bang” are all slamming tunes (especially Just Bang, which sounds like it's straight out of Boys Noize Records). The only true big beat track is “Ill See You There”, which has standard Chemical Brothers breaks formula, but there's still plenty of other nostalgic sounds scattered through the release. The flagship single “Go” gets legendary MC, Q-Tip, back in the mix for the sequel to their classic “Galvanize”, and while overall it's a terrific track that sounds even better live (well to be honest all Chemical Brothers songs sound better live, they're freaking AMAZING live) it seems like Q-Tip's participation in the track is more hype than actual substance. The same goes for St Vincent in “Under Neon Lights”, where her vocals just don't stand out that much considering how great she actually is. Beck‘s cameo in “Wide Open” on the other hand seems to fully take advantage of the Grammy Award winning artist, with his fantastic lyrics and relaxed undertone is a perfect addition to a very positive and memorable closing tune.
The only real gripe with this album is “Taste Of Honey”, an experimental, almost interlude track, that ultimately falls a bit flat with some cheesy lyrics and a rather disruptive segment in the end of the song that seems more like an opportunity to showboat their sound design expertise. Granted, that's impressive in it's own right, but it unfortunately just doesn't gel well with the rest of the album and being that it's a short tune, it seems they could have done without it, or maybe replaced with one of the bonus tracks like “Let Us Build A City” or “Wo-Ha” which is a lot more fun and eclectic. Luckily, “Taste Of Honey” is followed by what is perhaps one of the best songs on the album, the title track “Born In The Echoes” is indie rock fusion, that even has folk/rock singer Cate Le Bon lending her voice. It's among their most raw tracks and a great example of the rocktronica sound that the brothers have turned heads with since the 90s.
Similar to fellow veteran dance giants, The Prodigy, who also released an album after a long hiatus, the brothers probably won't be ushering a new wave of big beat electronica with Born In The Echoes, but they've shown that their old tricks don't just work but haven't lost their novelty at all. It's not the groups highest highs but there's barely any lows and they show their versatility in ways they've never done before. One of the most highly anticipated albums of the year, and its lives up to the hype.
- Born In The Echoes
- Wide Open
Final Score: 8.5/10