The Chemical Brothers have always been storytellers, crafting intricately complex matrixes of sound that blur between electronica, house and trip-hop, and narrated by a never-ending carousel of cast members. While their mid-nineties output took you on spiritual journeys through ground-breaking territory, but as the decades wane on, they’ve become journeymen of the generation they helped pioneer.
On their ninth studio outing, and first in four years, The Chemical Brothers recycle their roots for an album that’s as akin in sound to the breakbeats and synth pyrotechnics of their debut ‘Exit Planet Dust’ as The Prodigy’s ‘No Tourists’ was to their underground rave days.
‘No Geography’ is a roadmap of acid house basslines, nineties trip-hop vocals in the form of Norwegian singer-songwriter AURORA, and techno-tuned synthesisers that whizz around your mind and blur the lines between the past and present.
Opener ‘Eve Of Destruction’ threatens to mess with the status quo, throwing pulsating synths against Daft Punk-driven deep bass, evaporating mid-way into lo-fi trip-hop chaos. Unfortunately, as is much of the case on ‘No Geography,’ for everything that’s good, it’s usually preceded or succeeded by something not so good. ‘Bango’ and ‘No Geography’ are mid-pace near-misses that long for the love of a nineties rave, ‘Gravity Drops’ is too acidy for acid-house and ‘We’ve Got To Try’ is the nightmarish sounds of Jamiroquai and The Jackson 5 squeezed through a blender of house and techno.
While the average and mundane outweighs the great and interesting, there are glimmers of shining lights that hark back to The Chemical Brothers' golden days. Colourful bursts of glittering synths invade your mind as concrete slabs of bass layer over your brain on ‘The Universe Sent Me’ while ‘Free Yourself’ is the modern-day house anthem The Chemical Brothers so desperately needed to craft to hold on to their credibility as mainstream purveyors of underground sounds.
It’s not that ‘No Geography’ is a misstep in The Chemical Brothers career path, it’s not even that it’s a bad album, in fact, it’s quite good. It’s that it neither adds nor takes away from their revolutionary discography; instead, it simply exists.