Published Jul 15, 2015Whether it's as a long-term fan, one who cites them as a gateway into dance music, or one who has only asked for another one of them "Block Rockin' Beats" once or twice, almost everyone seems to have some connection to the Chemical Brothers. They're one of the few acts that have managed to remain respectable to the dance music community whilst simultaneously drawing in reams of on-the-fencers by constantly delivering chart hits.
That's not an easy feat. Their mere presence in the charts was a huge help to electronic music on the whole, which some purists surely saw as selling out, but in reality was a much-needed boost for a genre that had notoriously bad press.
Unfortunately, after years of attempting to straddle the border between underground and mainstream, the Chemical Brothers got predictable. One learned to expect a couple of vocal tracks from indie band singers, interwoven with a few thoughtless bangers and tied off with a downtempo closer, which is exactly what Born In The Echoes does. The album's single "Go," with Q-tip, follows the same formula as the truly awful "The Salmon Dance" from their 2007 album We Are the Night, where the Brothers layered a '90s hip-hop star (Fatlip, back then) over some tacky acid squiggles and an uninspiring chorus. Then there's the unceremonious outro "Wide Open," a track that desperately fails to utilize the vocal talents of Beck. It's partly reminiscent of older tracks like "Close Your Eyes" and "Where Do I Begin," but it's mostly just a new level of mundane.
Among the paint-by-numbers tracks, Born In The Echoes has still got a couple of artful numbers peppered throughout. The title track, for instance, provides an ideal brooding backdrop for Cate Le Bon's stark vocals, while "Reflexion" manages to hit that perfect middle between electronic and psychedelic, an old chestnut of a tactic that the Chemical Brothers seemed to have lost in recent years. St. Vincent's turn on "Under Neon Lights" is beguiling, as well.
On the whole, however, Born In The Echoes is a lacklustre affair. Die-hard fans will — and probably should — give it a few listens, but it seems unlikely that anyone's going to have this album on repeat for the summer. (Virgin/Universal)