Thu, Jul 19, 2007 - Page 14 News List

CD reviews

AGENCIES

Zeitgeist
Smashing Pumpkins
Reprise
July 10

The Chemical Brothers

We Are the Night

Virgin

July 17

After a particularly long spell of gardening leave, dance music has returned, refreshed and quivering with energy. In Britain, we aren't really talking about punishing techno - more our pop-infused, rock-informed mutants (like New Rave and its breed leaders, Klaxons) and the litter of DJ/remixer auteurs (Simian Mobile Disco, step forward) currently mashing it up.

Into this springtime of body-jacking comes a record which seeks to remind the young neon pups that not so long ago, the night was the personal playground of a couple of shuffling guys in baggy, dun-colored clothes. After a couple of albums struggling to fly the flag for 1990s dance culture in an uncongenial climate, the Chemical Brothers' sixth album is rather good. Not only does it supply updates of their nostalgic signatures - misty-eyed euphoria, rockular dynamics, easygoing BPMs - it also measures up well against the new breed, deploying newfangled noises with casual confidence.

Getting Klaxons in as guests was an astute move. In one fine tune, All Rights Reversed, batons are passed as Klaxons spiel their candy-colored occultism over a thumping Brotherly base. That's it, as far as star turns go. The remainder of the album's collaborators are either low-key, like Willy Mason (on so-so comedowner Battle Scars) or gonzoid, like rapper Fatlip from the Pharcyde. He urges listeners to shake it like a spawning salmon on The Salmon Dance, a skit-track that's just about more grin than grimace. Midlake have a hand in The Pills Won't Help You Now. The twist? It's a meditation set in a nursing home, not a caner's lament, a bit like the Verve's The Drugs Don't Work before it.

The Klaxons love-in aside, the Chemicals play best on their own. The title track sees aliens land in helicopters. Saturate is pure Chemicals, like a warped Private Psychedelic Reel with harder dynamics. It's not perfect, but We Are the Night has promise.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the forthcoming Underworld album heralds a return for the giants of yesterbeat or whether this dose of Chemicals is just a pleasant blip.

Those the Brokes

The Magic Numbers

Astralwerks

July 17

The Magic Numbers butter their bread with a preciousness that predates them: the sweet, optimistic, alert sound of 1980s indie pop, humming along on eighth-note bass lines and boy-girl harmonies.

They do it well, and it might be enough: They could be a post-new-wave eighth-note band and stop there. But Romeo Stodart, the band's main singer and songwriter, has more in him. For ballads - which make up half of the band's second album, Those the Brokes - he channels melodies, structures and arrangements from meticulous types like Burt Bacharach, Curtis Mayfield, Jerry Butler and Jimmy Webb.

But his sense of craft is woollier. At this band's ambling pace, when Stodart falls in love with an ooh-wah-ooh or a la-la-la, he sticks with it a little too long. But maybe repetition helps the Magic Numbers remain sincere; it's impressive how far this band can push its bright, modest sentimentality in 2007 without fetishizing it, making it hard and unpleasant.

Singing in Cat Stevens's light and pleasant range, bumping up into a falsetto here and there, Stodart uses plain bubble-gum language. He asks innocent questions: "How am I to tell her that it's over?" "Was I born to love alone?" "Running out of love - is it the wrong kind of love?"

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