Album review: The Chemical Brothers’ ‘Born in the Echoes’

The Chems sound kind of bored.

There’s nothing like a great Chemical Brothers album opener—think “Block Rockin’ Beats” and “Galvanize”—to psych you up for the journey ahead, and “Sometimes I Feel So Deserted” from Born in the Echoes follows in that tradition. It’s a slow-building thumper that reveals different synthesized and sampled elements until it ecstatically peaks toward the end.

Per Galileo, what goes up must come down, however, and while previous albums by the Chems have thwarted that reality through skyward keyboard melodies and dizzying psychedelica atop galloping breakbeats, a good chunk of Echoes falls into a musical K-hole. It’s a darker effort, only teasing a party through acid house (“EML Ritual,” “Just Bang”) and the electro of ’80s R&B and rap (“Go,” featuring previous Chems collaborator Q-Tip). And the melodies often don’t resonate, or they sound warmed over from older material.

Perhaps it’s not as fun as it once was for Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons. (The latter even retired from live gigs last November.) Or maybe we expect more from them eight studio albums in. “Wide Open” should close Echoes with a technicolor climax, but it settles on being just pleasantly emotive, hardly giving guest vocalist Beck anything from which to spring. Sadly, he sounds kind of bored. So do the Chems.

The Chemical Brothers Born in the Echoes

Two and a half stars

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