The Chemical Brothers – ‘For That Beautiful Feeling’ review: electronic titans as future-focused as ever
Two-and-a-half decades into their career, everyone knows The Chemical Brothers are masters of their craft. But it’s the iconic Manchester duo’s constant reinvention of their sound, pushing festival-filling dance music further into the stratosphere, that has kept these dance giants atop the electronic music throne.
While the world’s certainly changed since their spell-binding 2019 album ‘No Geography’, the genre-traversing pair have been by no means quiet. Post-lockdown, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons’ NME-hailed reputation as the best live dance act has rocketed. Fresh from dominating another summer’s festival season, the pair return with album 10 – and it’s among their best. Recorded in their studio near the south coast but with fields of ravers in mind, ‘For That Beautiful Feeling’ is packed with huge face-melters that recall 1999’s timeless ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’ and the pure ecstasy of 1995’s ‘Three Little Birdies Down Beats’ from their seminal debut album ‘Exit Planet Dust’.
Right from the pumping, drum-led opener ‘Intro’, the tone is set with an otherworldly robotic voice. Then, French artist Halo Maud – the album’s main collaborative vocalist – ignites pure euphoria as ‘Live Again’’s synths hit like lightning. Seamlessly blended into the acid-tinged, laser-fuelled basslines of ‘No Reason’, this is the Chems at their best and most direct: layering futuristic, sci-fi-leaning sonics atop stratospheric build ups. The latter’s ominous lyrics – “We have no reason to live, When will they kill us all?” – add to the apocalyptic narrative, the kind of tightrope they’ve walked across their entire career.
Though equally hallucinogenic, the album’s middle section is more focused on taking psych-fuelled trips than causing dancefloor damage. ‘Fountains’ fires off in all directions, with echoey Tame Impala-style vocals and spiralling War Of The Worlds-style sounds, while the vivid ‘Magic Wand’ is eerily otherworldly. Contrastingly, reverb-heavy outlier ‘The Weight’ finds a frustrated voice repeating “who’s gonna take the blame?”
The album’s carefree final third comparatively soars on optimism. The radio-friendly infatuation of ‘Skipping Like A Stone’, featuring previous collaborator Beck (see 2015’s ‘Wide Open’ from the dark and twisted ‘Born In The Echoes’), seamlessly fuses elements of pop, indie, rock and dance. Propelled by an ominous siren and huge singalong chorus, it’s a stadium-sized anthem.
The gradual embrace of ‘The Darkness That You Fear’ is equally encouraging, as a female voice urges, “Let your heart see the colours all around you… and the darkness that you fear will disappear”, before techno juggernaut ‘Feels Like I Am Dreaming’ stimulates every sense.
With their journey to another realm complete, the hypnotic closing track reinterprets the album’s intro as a calming descent to Earth, its cinematic synths and ominous drums fading out to leave just Halo Maud’s a capella vocal – the post-party comedown after an endlessly exhilarating voyage to an electronic utopia. On their 10th album, The Chemical Brothers remain the best in the business.
- Release date: September 8
- Record label: EMI