The Chemical Brothers - For That Beautiful Feeling review: the duo strike the perfect formula

 (PR Handout)
(PR Handout)

Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands are both now in their early fifties, have just marked 30 years since their debut single, Song to the Siren. They’re celebrating the anniversary with a plush, fully illustrated coffee table book to be published next month. Despite this venerable landmark, as the pair release their tenth album they appear to have mislaid their pipes and slippers. For That Beautiful Feeling bounds chaotically through its 46 minutes like an escaped zoo animal. There is very little point in attempting to listen to it sitting down.

The album begins and ends with the same sound: the French singer Halo Maud repeating the album title while her voice is warped and stretched, meaning that it works well to play the whole thing on a neverending loop, a spinning fairground ride without an exit sign. She’s one of only two guest singers this time, the other being Beck, who also sang the dreamy closer to the duo’s 2015 album Born in the Echoes. This time his song, Skipping Like a Stone, is more energetic and poppy, though it’s worth keeping in mind that any Chemical Brothers track that passes for a pop song will still contain at least a dozen noises that sound as if they were airlifted from Mars.

Because there are fewer star names here than on some past albums, the focus is solidly on the gold they can alchemize from a studio setup. Some songs feel more retro than others. No Reason features a simple repeated “Woo!” vocal and a rubbery acid house synth solo. The Weight, with its aggressive male vocal sample and a monster truck of a bassline, recalls their number one single from 1997, Block Rockin’ Beats.

They still never sound like anyone other than themselves. Remember this is a group with a take on dance music so unique that they once won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. That album title, as with others such as Surrender, Further, and Come With Us, suggests that the thing for which they have always been questing is a sound that magicks the receptive listener to another place entirely. They achieve that on Feels Like I Am Dreaming, which builds to a frantic, dizzying climax, and on Goodbye, with punchy breakbeats that eventually give way to overwhelming electronic psychedelia.

They’ve been very clever. After all that, you probably will need to get your heart rate back down by buying their book.