Album Reviews: Push the Button by The Chemical BrothersIt becomes more and more tempting with each passing album to dismiss The Chemical Brothers as over, irrelevant, past their prime, behind the times, pick your favorite dismissive cliche. But somehow, the British duo of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, like their fellow "big beat" pioneer Fatboy Slim, just refuses to go away. While Push the Button, their fifth studio album, may not have much to offer in the way of new ideas, it's a remarkably high-energy set of electronic dance anthems for an act that's been around long enough to have a greatest hits album and a small army of imitators.
As usual, the Brothers are at their best when they scrap lyrics and traditional songwriting and concentrate on punishing club tracks like "The Big Jump" and "Believe," the latter of which is easily the best thing they've produced since "It Began in Afrika" off 2002's return-to-form Come With Us. When they trot out the melodies and guest vocalists, they're less effective -- witness the annoying lead single "Galvanize," with its knee-jerk political rap (courtesy of Q-Tip) and tired Bollywood vibe. The Charlatans UK's Tim Burgess provides the sole vocal highlight, invigorating the strobelight funk of "The Boxer" with just the right note of strangled urgency.
Flaunting their growing versatility as producer/songwriters, Rowlands and Simons end Push the Button with a pair of great change-ups. "Marvo Ging" is a psychedelic boogie led by a mutated slide guitar, while "Surface to Air" provides one of the duo's prettiest post-rave comedowns. The Chemical Brothers' days of blowing people's minds may be over, but they remain masters at moving the crowd. - Andy Hermann
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