Three years have passed since the last studio album from Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, three years in which it seemed that The Chemical Brothers‘ best days were long behind them. Both Come With Us and Surrender were seen as pale re-treads of past glories, and while the Brothers’ singles collection was hugely enjoyable it seemed to mark the end of an era.
So it’s a pleasant surprise to greet Push The Button, the Chemicals’ fifth studio album and certainly their best effort since Dig Your Own Hole. The usual ingredients are present and correct – from the spacey dance tunes through to the galaxy of star guests, this is certainly Tom and Ed on familiar ground. Yet they sound re-energised and the songs collected here are amongst their best.
The guests range from old friends (Charlatans singer Tim Burgess) to new names (Kele Okereke of 2005’s most likely superstars Bloc Party) and star on some of the best tracks on here. Burgess lends his vocal talents to The Boxer – not the old Simon & Garfunkel classic needless to say – a mighty, thumping number with stabbing keyboard riffs, while Okerake gives Belief a sense of urgency as Tom and Ed sprinkle some classic thumping Chemical magic over the song.
Yet it’s not only the old school Chemical Brothers party anthems that work so well on Push The Button. Hold Tight London brings things down a touch with some ethereal vocals from Anna Lynne while the undoubted highlight of the whole album is the simply beautiful Close Your Eyes. Hotly tipped London duo The Magic Numbers guest, lending the track a poignant air – the song slowly builds to a climax until piano chords are mixing with the repeated lyrics “what if it all was to change” and the goosebumps are travelling up and down the listener’s neck. It’s one of the best things the Chemical Brothers have ever done.
Not every track works so beautifully – Left Right, featuring Anwar Superstar (brother of Mos Def) on vocals, is a brave departure for the duo, being an anti-war protest rap song. In an unfortunate case of bad timing however, the vitriolic lyrics about George Bush (“what’s the difference between Bush and Saddam?” asks the song) to a militaristic drum pattern was done much better by Eminem‘s Mosh a few months ago, leaving Left Right suffering somewhat by comparison.
To be fair though, that’s about the only mis-step on Push The Button. Whether it be the Grandmaster Flash reference on Come Inside, the apocalyptic Middle Eastern sound of Galvanise or the vocal part on The Big Jump which sounds worringly similar to David Walliams’ character Anne from Little Britain, the best moments on this album will put a big smile on your face. Indeed, the delightful Marvo Ging could rival Lemon Jelly for its sheer feel-good factor.
By the time the traditionally epic Chemical Brothers album closer of the seven minute long Surface To Air has built to its explosive conclusion, the duo have conclusively reclaimed their crown as kings of the UK dance scene. With Push The Button, Tom and Ed have rediscovered their magic touch and it’s so good to have them back on form.