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Push the Button – Chemical Brothers

Astralweks 63282

It always seemed as if the guest vocal appearances on the Chemical Brothers' albums were an afterthought, a little something extra to throw into the mixture of block rockin' beats, samples and whatever else the duo of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons could whip up in their musical laboratory. At the very least, they represented a soothing "landing" after coming down from the high represented on the rest of the disc.

It's 2005 and the Brothers have rethought matters, making a serious switch of their priorities — letting loose with their creative instrumental side takes a backseat to the singers who keep popping up during the first half of "Push the Button" like passersby during a tribute concert.

The opening track, "Galvanize," with vocals by Q-Tip runs through like a live mix. It's a familiar path that was done to perfection on 1997's "Dig Your Own Hole." But, as hypnotic as this call to arms is, it sounds as if Rowlands and Simons didn't have the good sense to edit it. That ends up lessening the song's build and release nature. "Left Right" follows a similar thematic approach of unity among the people to stand against the forces of power. But that song's marching rhythm amps up its defiant stance and rap courtesy of Anwar.

This doesn't mean that "Push the Button" has no legitimacy. While I have nothing but respect and appreciation for two artists exploring new methods of their craft, it doesn't mean that everything they put on tape gets a free pass.

Admittedly, the tunes begin to grow on me. Hell, this is the Chemical Brothers after all! It's not as if they've completely lost any sense of merging groove with melody and fanciful whirligigs of excess sound. "The Boxer" has a breezy feel to it, while "Believe" drives the beat in a way that's expected (and needed). "Come Inside" presents a travelogue through the Chemical Brothers past sound collages, while still keeping matters fresh. It also segues to "The Big Jump" and its pure celebration of dance.

Although the Chemical Brothers maintain an ability to move your body and tantalize your brain, the focus is lacking on Push the Button. The album may represent a step towards new terrain but the ride getting there can be bumpy.

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