Is there a pressing need for another Chemical Brothers best-of, a mere five years after the first? Virgin evidently thinks so, and to pull in the (increasingly) poor fan base, has added a couple of new tracks just to give it a bit more desirability.
Which, in the times of that horrible term ‘credit crunch’, would be nothing short of dastardly, were there not a second disc of Electronic Battle Weapons. To the uninitiated that sounds like a new form of mutant ninja entertainment, but it’s actually an insight into the Chemicals’ writing process, bringing together early versions of tracks such as It Began In Afrika that were only available on limited formats before.
The first half of the collection – the one driving the advertising, at any rate – is a hand-picked selection of up for it tracks. Which needs qualification in itself, since by definition any Chemicals track is ‘up for it’ – it’s just that these ones are the real heavyweights, the coruscating sounds leading to out and out electronic hedonism.
Galvanize kickstarts proceedings, the start of a strong opening quartet containing Hey Boy, Hey Girl, Block Rockin’ Beats and Do It Again, framing eleven years of anthemic electronica. Then there’s a natural lull, and Balearic-flavoured house such as Star Guitar can be only be termed that in the context of the tracks around it, before Leave Home and Saturate reignite the desire to do serious dancefloor damage once again. The latter, now a live favourite, is classic Chemical Brothers – little more than a loop repeated over and over, but in such a way that incites a riot.
There are three number ones in this collection, proof that the pair have achieved that most difficult balancing act of appealing to their hardcore fans who might like something a bit more underground, while at the same time giving the mainstream dancing masses plenty of ammunition for their parties.
The Battle Weapons? For fans only, I would proffer – but interesting in their anticipation of what was to follow. As far as the new tracks themselves go, Midnight Madness is an enjoyably madcap extension of the warmer climes of Star Guitar, and a tiny bit wistful as its synthesized melodies soar ever higher, while Keep My Composure, featuring Spank Rock, cuts to the bone more than its funkier cousin, which can be found on the Heroes OST.
This ought to keep fans going for a while, and does at least confirm that The Chemical Brothers remain at the top of their game even now, fourteen years after their inception as the Dust Brothers. Wherever they go next, we await their destination with great interest.