Home Read Classic Album Review: The Chemical Brothers | Come With Us

Classic Album Review: The Chemical Brothers | Come With Us

The electronica knob-twiddlers are running on fumes on their fourth full-length.


This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


What a long, strange trip it’s been for electronica.

Remember a few years ago, when the music biz was convinced electronica was going to be the Next Big Thing? Too bad nobody told all the record buyers. Now, it seems that when the music historians finally get around to writing the book on the electronica mini-boom of the mid-’90s, there will only be a few memorable names — artists like Moby, Prodigy, Fatboy Slim and The Chemical Brothers. They’re the ones who built the car; they’re the ones who drove it into the clubs and onto the radio dial; and, for the most part, they’re the ones who are still enjoying the ride.

Although, let’s be fair, some are riding higher than others. Moby and Slim, for instance, are still kings of the road, releasing award-winning discs that earn them critical acclaim and sell millions of copies. Prodigy, on the other hand, got lost somewhere a few years back and still haven’t resurfaced. And The Chemical Brothers? Well, if their been-there, done-that new album Come With Us is anything to go by, they’re running on fumes.

It was less than five years ago that The Chems — knob twiddlers Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons — had most of North America shaking its collective booty to their block rockin’ beats. Now, on this fourth studio full-length, they’re just circling the block. This 10-song, 54-minute danceathon is a faceless, uninvolving collection of generic, predictable grooves constructed from the same building blocks as most of their other albums. It’s got the big, stomping, four-on-the-floor house beats. It’s got the string-yanking, rubber-band bass lines. It’s got the psychedelic swirls and swooshes. It’s got the techno blips and bleeps. It’s got the artsy world music flirtations. It’s got the freaky-deaky robo-disco. It’s got the oddball vocal samples. It’s got the synthesized vocals. It’s got live vocals from Beth Orton and Richard Ashcroft. In short, it’s got pretty much everything Dig Your Own Hole and/or Surrender had — and less.

Oh, individually, there’s nothing wrong with tracks like the percussive It Began in Afrika, the disco-strutting Galaxy Bounce, the Exorcisty soundtrack of My Elastic Eye, the funky ’60s R&B of The Test and the folktronic ballad The State We’re In. In fact, with enough listenings, I’m sure some of these grooves would grow on you. A couple of these tunes might even end up on a mix tape down the road.

Or maybe not. Honestly, I have almost no desire to listen to these tunes that many times — if only because I’ve already heard far better versions of them on the Brothers’ other discs. Unlike Moby (who incorporated old blues and field-holler samples into his sound) and Fatboy Slim (who added live vocalists and continues to make cutting-edge videos), Rowlands and Simon seem unable or unwilling to move on, like nerdy guys who sit in the corner at the party and don’t know when it’s time to call it a night.

Come with you? Thanks but no thanks, guys — I’ve already seen what’s down that road.