The epiphany for [B]The Chemical Brothers[/B] arrived last year and it arrived with a blinding flash....
Here we go, then. But where exactly? Where else can Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons take us that we haven't been before? What new genres can they invent this time, assuming they did in the first instance? Oh, we can credit them with big beat and hold them responsible for Fatboy Slim's entire career, but to return now with an album of breakbeat-derived delirium, regardless of quality, would be insulting and unacceptable. Instead, light sticks at the ready, The Chemical Brothers have gone raving and they've dragged their celebrity mates along with them.
'Surrender' is hardly the radical move we (foolishly) anticipated, but then the Chemicals aren't a radical group. Effective and ruthlessly proficient, yes, but never the boundary-pushers or maverick sound scientists. Theirs is a psychedelia for people who've never taken acid, techno for those unfamiliar with Jeff Mills or, more recently and pertinently, Green Velvet. If you want gloriously dumb tough house, buy Impulsion's equally impressive but pretension-free 'Love Addict' album.
Plenty has happened since 'Dig Your Own Hole' and, sure, we survived without Tom and Ed. Yet somehow, with their third album, it all seems irrelevant. We're back at the beginning, eager to see what will happen [I]after [/I]'Surrender' has left its colossal mark. Whether it deserves to be such an inescapably enormous, all-consuming record is neither here nor there, it just [I]is[/I].
And as it happens, 'Surrender' is excellent. From the opening [I]faux-[/I]naive Kraftwerk simulation of 'Music: Response' right through to the final, Jonathan Donahue-assisted fry-up 'Dream On', it's simply a joy to listen to. Tellingly, the pair are most successful when they try something new (for them, at least). Like the irrepressibly sleek techno of 'Under The Influence', or 'Out Of Control', the best collaboration Bernard Sumner has sung on. Bobby Gillespie's also there, apparently, moaning. Its rumoured Sasha remix makes perfect sense.
'Hey Boy Hey Girl' you know, suffice to say it's a great moment in acid-bongo-pop fusion, while the Brothers' take on silken Chicago house, 'Got Glint?', even slides into graceful Balearic homage. These aside, though, and we're back on familiar ground. The album's nine-minute centrepiece, 'The Sunshine Underground', is essentially 'The Private Psychedelic Reel' smeared with glitter, and 'Asleep From Day', featuring Mazzy Star's permanently 'dreamy' Hope Sandoval, replaces previous folk-scarred outings with Beth Orton. Nice, but not quite the ticket.
Noel Gallagher rasps through the dislocated funk of 'Let Forever Be', a harmless, more subdued version of 'Setting Sun', you could argue. Noel's biggest influence on Tom and Ed, however, must be in the prevalence of utterly bland song titles. 'Orange Wedge'? It's not their finest musical moment either.
Minor gripes, admittedly, and anyway, you can always skip over them. Sufficient responses triggered, 'Surrender' won't change your life. But it will make it more enjoyable. And that, for the time being, is quite enough.
To read all our reviews first - days before they appear online - check out NME magazine, on sale every Wednesday