The Chemical Brothers | Pop review

Roundhouse, London

The Chemical Brothers' new album Further is billed as an audio-visual experience. Each track comes with a bespoke digital film; tonight is the premiere of the complete work. An audacious example of the duo's continued boundary-pushing, or a gimmick to disguise the diminishing returns that are the inevitable fate of all dance acts? The answer is somewhere in between. The visuals, projected on a giant backdrop, are stunning at points – a cubist horse rearing towards the crowd, kinetic silhouettes that mirror the music's energy. Too often, though, generic designs elicit the creeping suspicion that we're stuck in an iPhone advert.

As for the music, its strengths and flaws run on similar lines. After 16 years in the game, the Chemical Brothers know their way around a crowd-pleasing anthem: their knack for knowing exactly when to drop the beat is electrifying. Never ones to hold back, on Further they aim for ever-bigger sounds – pounding stadium techno that is at its best in a venue with the Roundhouse's superb acoustics. There's a Krautrock influence here, an electro stutter there; feelgood summer vocals enliven the single Swoon; and finally comes a metamorphosis into actual stadium rock on Wonders of the Deep. But primarily, this is about crescendos and breaks. It is effective, if not particularly fresh – it is evident at times that the Chemical Brothers are playing catch-up with the sounds of younger dance acts such as Crookers and Booka Shade.

It is telling that the album run-through feels like a warm-up for the show's second half: a thoroughly enjoyable clatter through some of the band's biggest hits, which sends the audience into a frenzy that is mitigated not a jot by the stifling summer-night humidity. The Chemical Brothers might insist they're looking forward, but their fans are finding their greatest thrills in looking back.


Alex Macpherson

The GuardianTramp

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