Ahhhhhh, the Chemical Brothers … See, the Chemical Brothers are one of those acts that I know, but I don’t really “know” – as in, yeah, I know the band’s material from the radio, and I dig most of it, but I couldn’t tell you much about any actual full albums. As such, reviewing Push the Button was a new experience for me, as it was my first time going straight through a full Chemical Brothers disc.
I guess the first thing I need to convey is how surprisingly diverse Push the Button is. I mean, I guess I’m sort of an uneducated slob in ways when it comes to certain electronic-oriented artists, as I sometimes expect that most of the material I hear is going to sound vaguely similar. I thought I had a grip on the disc after listening to the string section samples in the super-hot “Galvanize” (featuring the vocal sounds of Q-Tip), but of course, the very next song threw me for a loop. “The Boxer” (featuring vocals from the Charlatans’ Tim Burgess) glides a bunch of chirpy electro-pop sounds over a fat, solid rhythm; hell, the track’s even got an ‘electro-noise’ solo.
If Franz Ferdinand or Liars had recorded “The Big Jump,” the song could’ve been huge as a nasty, garage-dance number; as it is, the track is full of ass-wiggling infectiousness, all based around a dirty-sounding rhythm guitar – an oddity indeed, considering all the synthetic noise going on around it in the mix. “Shake Break Bounce” is oddly catchy as well, mixing a vaguely dub/reggae-styled rhythm with weird electronic flashes and a bright-sounding acoustic guitar rhythm. “Marvo Ging” is nothing short of marvelous, taking a slide guitar lick and morphing it into a rhythm effect that sounds as processed and mechanized as the electronic flare-ups that surround it in the track. The Chemical Brothers’ collaboration with The Magic Numbers, “Close Your Eyes,” results in a playfully demure little pop number that works well.
Some of the best stuff on the disc, though, comes from polar opposite musical directions. The album-closing “Surface to Air” is legitimately soothing – a soft, layered track that starts quite mechanically before breaking down into an emotional, more organic track not out of sorts with Interpol material. On the other hand, the funk-laced deep rhythms of “Left Right” are a sublimely proper setting for rapper Anwar’s powerful raps, making the track an instant stand-out amongst this material.
I’m breathing a sigh of relief as I realize that my first full-length Chemical Brothers experience has been a good one. I have to admit that there are a few ‘hitches’ with Push the Button, though. First off, the disc is diverse – almost too diverse, actually, in that there are real interruptions in the album flow in a few spots going from track to track. The second minor blemish on the disc is that so many of these songs are so dramatically drawn out; I understand that with electronic-based/dance-type music, artists tend to stretch things out to let beats and rhythms whirl around a bit, but a few of these tracks seem needlessly stretched. Still, if the worst things I can find to say about an album is that it’s “too diverse” and that the songs are slightly too long, then maybe there’s really nothing to be complaining about at all. The actual material on Push the Button is solid enough for multiple repeat listens, and the bottom line says that’s all that should really matter.