Album Review: The Chemical Brothers' 'No Geography'
During the recording of Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands’ ninth album, they enlisted the helpings of the synthesisers and technical gear which saw them reach superstardom in the late 90s. The sound created in this era has been cemented into dance music culture thanks to records such as Exit Planet Dust and Dig Your Own Hole. The recruitment of these analogue synths and drum machines excited the typical old-school raver, but posed a question to critics - would this decision make No Geography sonically stale and outdated, or would it bring The Chemical Brothers’ trademark sound successfully into 2019?
The Chemical Brothers headline Antibes Festival, France
Unlike the aforementioned albums, No Geography’s tracklisting isn’t littered with big name collaborators. Vocal assistance in full form is hard to find on this record; instead, vocal sampling is a much more frequent technique used, MAH being particularly memorable use of this, where the ‘Mad as Hell’ loop acts as a battle cry to be shouted exclusively on the dancefloor. The undoubtedly most commercially viable, yet outstanding single is Got To Keep On, where a disco-tinged bassline is paired with intricate bells which paint the picture of a dystopian house party at Christmas time.
Eve Of Destruction is what kicks the album off, however, and it commences the album in a near perfect way. A driving synthline is traded in for an identical melody within the bass frequencies around the one-minute mark, which faultlessly ties together the madness which follows. Various eras of dance music are expertly explored within this one track, elements of piano house are present, with acidic tones and tribal drums thrown in for good measure. These drums flow into the second track, Bango, as if it were a DJ set, but unfortunately the quality seems to take a pitstop, a track with too much going on to form any kind of groove or drum pattern.
Despite this misstep early in the tracklisting, songs which aren’t at least satisfactory are hard to come by from here onward. The title track is an outright anthem which combines exuberant melodies with propelling percussion, the only thing that can be desired on this track is the wish for it to have gone on longer. Complete with the titular mantra, taken from a poem by Michael Brownstein, the nasty drums are entwined with feelings of euphoria and exultation. The Brothers put it best themselves when they told Billboard, “the song makes us emotional with its feeling of love and brotherhood / sisterhood without boundaries. We’re looking forward to playing it live around the world.” This is yet another track to add to an ever-growing setlist which could take over any stage on the worldwide festival circuit.
'No Geography' Album Artwork
As we reach the home straight of No Geography, a couple more no-nonsense bangers are provided. We’ve Got To Try alternates soulful vocals against mind bending electronic mayhem to create a soundscape which would fit snugly into the soundtrack of an action movie set at the end of the universe. The albums closer, Catch Me I’m Falling, is a calming end which possesses a likeness to its Beck-featured counterpart, Wide Open, the closing track from 2015’s Born In The Echoes.
It would have been very easy for The Chemical Brothers to sound stubborn on this record, like the dance music equivalent of a dad who can’t listen to any rock ‘n’ roll that isn’t from “back in their day”. But instead, they sound like a pair of big-beat kings who are constantly breathing new life into their sound, and they aren’t prepared to let go of their crown any time soon.