Chemical Bros. have right mix

by Sam Lederer | 2/12/02 6:00am

Surely the Chemical Brothers must have felt slighted until, after spinning discs in some of England's hottest clubs for seven years, they were hailed by critics and recognized by a mainstream audience with 1997's "Dig Your Own Hole." But the sensational British duo, Tom Rolands and Ed Simons, have put all that behind them and playfully ask fans on their fourth studio release to, "Come With Us."

Rolands and Simons met each other at the University of Manchester while taking a history class. Originally calling themselves the Dust Brothers, the tag team changed their name in 1995 when an American production team of the same name threatened to sue.

"Come With Us" is a trip through the winding corridors of the mind combined with an explosion of thumping beats and sampling. The 10-track ride has its share of typical dance anthems ("Star Guitar" and "It Began in Afrika"), a few cuts out of left field ("Hoops" and "My Elastic Eye") and even some guest appearances (Beth Orton on "The State We're In" and Richard Ashcroft on "The Test").

Reverting to a more house-oriented sound than their previous efforts, the Chemical Brothers break down their routine to the bare essentials and emerge with a raw and fresh sound.

The album begins with the title track's whirling keyboard and arcade video-game sounds. "Behold; they're coming back," declares a voice amid frenetic drumming and pumping bass lines. Indeed they are, as the duo invites listeners on a vibrant musical odyssey.

"Galaxy Bounce" and "Hoops" are pure techno, featuring minimalist sampling and simple rhythms.

The alternating drums and turntables on "Bounce" make for an interesting combination with the song's packed-to-the-brim breakbeats.

"Hoops" departs from the electric mold with its Japanese-flavored acoustic guitar. The track flirts with pop then reverts to techno with some pure electric psychedelics.

The pair truly demonstrates their versatility on "It Began in Afrika," as they create the ultimate teaser with pulsating beats. "Afrika," the first single off the album, features samples of tigers and caused a sensation over the summer in the Spanish techno haven, Ibiza.

Like a roller coaster, the song ventures through multiple beats and rhythm sections.

The British spinsters, however, do not forget their techno roots. The melody of "Star Guitar" is drawn from the random and harsh beats that open the track. The six-minute song features a more subdued and trippy sound that is maintained by some soothing female vocals.

But Rolands and Simons come out of nowhere with "My Elastic Eye." With Middle Eastern influences and harsh bass sounds married to rock, the track sounds like a Christmas song on acid.

The bizarre "The State We're In," also appears to come from nowhere until the beat speeds up and provides the transition into "Denmark." Orton's vocals scream disillusion and desperation on top of the ethereal rhythm of the song. Hints of rock and funk can be heard in the similarity between the whining opening of the track and Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain."

The album is not all chock-full of electric mastery and goodness. "Pioneer Skies" with its random beats and harsh harpsichord sampling is a little flat and lacks inspiration. "Denmark," as well, could use a little kick in the ass, as it has no substance outside of its good effects.

The release finishes strongly, though, with the seven-minute epic, "The Test." Ashcroft's layered harmonies and empowered lyrics add a mystical feeling to the cut. His chant, "Did I pass the acid test?" appears to serve as the Chemical Brothers' plea for the listener's approval. And with the combination of exotic horn sampling and trance breakbeats, how could anyone disapprove?