Album Review: The Chemical Brothers – No Geography

No Geography

There’s a revelatory sort of freedom in dancing; whether it’s an act of provocation to those around you with a feverish, f*cks-not-given abandon, subliminally making the beast with two backs right in plain sight, or by losing your identity in a pack of unified ravers, at its root remains a primal impulse which five thousand years of civilisation has failed to destroy.

When Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands were doing just that in the late 1980s the sounds which would make you contemplate these little feats of rebellion were more interlocked with counter-culture; for years you were as likely to find a sound system being rolled up into a field was the property of people who got little out of walls, or laws.

The duo have been very careful to not navigate a direct path between that era of youthful hedonism and this of increasing authoritarian control and Britain’s lemming like progress towards cultural hari-kari, but No Geography’s tracklisting does it for them. Opener Eve of Destruction reads as apocryphal as anything they’ve ever recorded, but with its thumb-snapping bass and bubbling rave samples, the then could be now, a call to get our collective asses shakin’, to flip off the man and escape his mono-belief system and mind slavery.

This then is a world away from 2015’s lackluster Born In The Echoes; the pair who were as responsible for the underground becoming everyone’s playground seem to be spending this record on some sort of community payback scheme, splicing down the unnecessary dimensions to their sound by making collaboration the lesser of all evils. This trimmed sense of urgency is screw tight, brooding under strobes as on The Universe Sent Me, with Free Yourself’s AI-fed exhortations cryptic. Who wants to be liberated? Why? The questions come posed by a robotic upstart voice, bred from a broken algorithm.

Amongst the rubble found sounds and old, discombobulated voices have taken up the mantle of communicating emotions; the anonymous man with the time bomb that’s gone off inside him gives the corkscrew, dream like acid rips of MAH a dystopian air, somewhere inside it there’s a riot going on.

Every wise mentor though leads their flock through what are only possibilities, even if the choices presented are stark and primal, but then offers in amongst the splinters of normality a promise just as fundamental: hope. No Geography’s title-track is salvation in its broadest, watching the dawn break terms, a pulse that owes much to the societal optimism at the dawn of the computer age, of its naïve belief that boundaries would by now be just a memory.

Sometimes though the act is just enough no matter how little its meaning is for anyone else; on Got To Keep On the pair slip straight through into an alternative Balearic dimension that the pealing bells, frothing, happy hour synths and delirious sense of positivity makes into a playground for smiles, proving nirvana is in you forgetting your like count for good.

That’s what dancing teaches you, if you listen hard enough and are prepared to grab the accelerant, lessons that conditioning simply can’t suffocate. The Chemical Brothers have lit the fuse. No Geography could make you land just about anywhere.


(Andy Peterson)

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