They might look like mortgage advisers but they sound anything but…
St Patrick’s Day is starting early. Mashed-up bastards with green
wigs and glo-sticks are streaming along the River Liffey towards
The Point. The Chemical Brothers can’t fail here. The 8,000
people packed into what used to be Dublin’s main train depot are
ready to ecstatically applaud a man beating a stone with a stick.
However, they’re not ready for a starkly backlit Krautrock-influenced
three-piece who play psychedelic covers of Bob Dylan country tunes.
And that’s a shame because Secret Machines are pretty awesome. The
New York-based trio are all studied, intense drive. The relentless
Can-like rhythm with Spacemen 3 drone is topped with
Brandon Curtis’ cracked and worn voice – a strange instrument with
echoes of Wayne Coyne. The band don’t speak, don’t engage the crowd,
but have a dark, compelling tractor beam that pulls you in and doesn’t let
up. Their cover of Dylan’s ‘Girl From The North County’ is
meaty but spectral – a fine, strange choice. It’s the ten-minute reworking
of ‘First Wave Intact’ that seals their ascent. It starts with a
simple incessant riff and closes with masses of clanging white noise that
leaves you tired and breathless. “Listen close, they’re watching
us”, repeats Curtis throughout the track. No they’re not,
Brandon. It’s impossible to see the stage through a wall of
There are no such problems for The Chemicals. The hordes are
panting, arms aloft like a benign Nuremberg rally. It’s straight into
‘Hey Boy, Hey Girl’ and the mood of the night is set. It’s going to
be big hits all the way, with a few from the recent ill-received (but big
selling) ‘Push The Button’. The pace is relentless. They surge
through ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’, ‘Music:Response’ and ‘Out Of
Control’ with a verve that says the dance collapse never happened.
‘Galvanize’ is a return to form if there ever was one. A
bowel-shuddering thump recalls the spirit and volume of Leftfield
from a time when it looked like synthesizers could bring down the
But a problem remains. The Chemical Brothers still look like
mortgage experts – albeit wearing T-shirts on their night off. So despite
their fierce lasers and expensive visuals, there is still a lack of charged
A couple of times, Ed Simmons wanders from behind the monitors and
LEDs and encourages the crowd to give it large. Within seconds he gets
self-conscious and toodles off.
None of this matters to The Chemical Brothers’ massive, of course.
The duo have proved that though dance music is finished as a creative force,
they have a body of work that stands up by itself. And in new tunes like the
Kele Bloc Party-fronted ‘Believe’, they have enough to keep on
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keeping on. It would be good, though, if just once they came onstage
dressed like Elvis and set off some fireworks. That would be a SHOW.