Review: The Chemical Brothers – For That Beautiful Feeling

Artwork for The Chemical Brothers' 2023 album For That Beautiful Feeling

The Chemical Brothers hit the mark yet again.

Perennial festival headliners, The Chemical Brothers have been at the top of their game for nearly three decades but, despite this album now putting their catalogue into double figures, the duo never rest on their laurels.

Their music is largely designed for euphoric nights, complete with comedowns, and For That Beautiful Feeling starts as such: opening track (Intro – see what they did there?) drops us straight in, like we’ve just popped our heads round the door on a party night that is in full flow, with wonky beats that segues into single Live Again.

The muscular track crashes in on a wave of electronics and beautiful Balearic sci-fi sonics, with Halo Maud (French psyche-pop singer and the album’s main collaborator) adding dreamy – if slightly repetitive – looped vocals and a deftness of touch. The swirling No Reason follows, all sultry bassline and snapping percussion. So far, so banging.

Goodbye changes the tempo, fusing a euphoric melancholy with stuttering percussion, tugging at the heartstrings with a simplistic melody (providing by a soulful but uncredited vocalist) and allowing the mind to wander.

That’s before an ear-splitting klaxon designed to remind the listener of where they are. The slinky, metallic bop of Fountains is underpinned by a stuttering looped riff that recalls Chic, while the eerie Magic Wand pulses with an otherworldly timbre, like TV themes tunes of old.

Then, at the mid-point, the realisation of quite how far Ed & Tom have travelled in their career hits home. Those of a more cynical disposition would argue not, but at some point (around 2010) they tweaked their sound to add some more traditional electronic fare and, in truth, sacrificed some of those block-rockin’ beats.

The Weight redresses the balance, strutting sassily, a piece of slightly deranged funk which would sit well on Exit Planet Dust. While they are never ones to look back, it’s a pleasant surprise to see the duo acknowledge their past, as they do in the introduction of Skipping Like A Stone which, if your reviewer isn’t mistaken, is the same as their remix of New Order’s Here To Stay from 2002.

The similarities end there as Beck – who previously appeared on Wide Open from Born In The Echoes – shows off his vocal range on a track that is very much cut from the same cloth as their 2015 collaboration. Like most sequels, it’s inferior but by no means inessential, the choral effects bringing yet more drama.

Much better is The Darkness That You Fear (the Harvest Mix, differing from the single release earlier in the year), which swoons optimistically, complete with a samba mid-section.

In one last hurrah, Feels Like I’m Dreaming is one of those motored Chemical Brothers tunes that does go down a few dead ends in its 7-minute runtime, but is demonstrably built for the live stage, with moments of tension building and moments of release in equal measure. Then, for a post-coital breather, Halo Maud drops by again as things slowly wind down to a stop before building back up again, and the album cuts off at the exact point at which we entered. Those clever sods.

10 albums, 30 years…the numbers don’t matter. For That Beautiful Feeling proves, once again, that The Chemical Brothers are – and always have been – the absolute masters of their craft.

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