Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Die-Hard Chemical Brothers fan's reaction to the We Are the Night - Liveblogged upon his first listening

Liveblogging my first listen of We are the Night. (How did I get it? Why do you ask?)

Currently in the title track (track 2). That's because track one was very short - one minute, just an intro - that's new for the chems. Minimalist too. Weird.

This track ("We Are the Night") has some weird distant percussion, psychedelic noises, and some acid. And hell yeah, here's the full on Chems percussion at about 1:30 in. Unabashedly old school in structure so far. Just old acid with a Chems sound palate. I dig it so far.

Rolling bass line. "We are the night, we are the night." Yeah, I can see wigging out to this one while being blinded by a lightshow, with some sweaty dude who smeels like patchouli dancing way too close to me.

Sweeping and psychedelic and dancable. Maybe even spiritual at a point. All the things I like in my music. A little odd that this seems so quintessentially Chems, yet also like such a departure. So old school but so new.

So far I feel like Tom'n'Ed may have finally said "to 'ell with it" to whatever's going on in music around them and just decided to making the drug-addled dance music that first got them going back in '93.

Oooh, nice Kraftwerkesque keys at the end.

Now it's on to "All Rights Reversed (feat. the Klaxons)." My friend told me the Klaxons are teh suck, so my expectations are low... Hrmm, typical brit "rave-rock" vocals. Track's alright. Dark, which is a new one for the Chems. Not dark in the possibly bad-trip, "It Doesn't Matter" kind of way, but dark in the nihilistic way.

Well, for a collaboration track, this ain't too shabby. Just wish they'd get over their need to collaborate with second rate brit-poppers. I haven't noted yet that this track isn't one of the dance-based tracks. Breakbeats, not 4/4, but a bit slower. Much more a traditional rock song structure, but with Chems production. Think "Let Forever Be" and "The Boxer."

Oooh, EBW #8 is on here - now called "Saturate." Good - I thought that track was very high caliber. Love the drums that come in during the second minute. I anticipate this track being part of a solid live 4/4 string..

As for album structure, thus far it seems okay. Now that I think about it, I like that the first track is an intro track. "All Rights Reserved" was so dark, and "Saturate" so happy, and "We Are the Night" so psychedelic, I'm not really percieving a distinct emotional arc (yet). Tracks largely un-transitioned - alas...

Now it's on to Do it Again. I've had this track for about a month now, and have already become very familar with it. It's hard to remember my first reactions - I was happy with it, and it's aged well. Never before have I heard something that was simultaneously so bubblegum-r&B-ey, yet so psychedelic and dark. A contrast that I really dig. This contrast, however, has thrown off a friend of mind - "it sounds like Justin Timberlake, sorta," he says. But how someone who likes JT and the Chems can disagree with this track, I don't understand. I like me some drugged up JT.

Alright, now it's onto Das Spiegel (awesome title, BTW). Hrmm, electro on a 4/4, with a clap. And now some chugging chords in the back. And weird Chem noises peppering things. I'm not apt to describe it, but it's fitting entirely within what I understand to be the Chems' current direction. Enjoyable little track, this is.
Apparently Spiegel means "Mirror." Now am I hearing an homage to "Hall of Mirrors" in some of these synths. Perhaps... And all of the sudden, the Speigel Catalog just got way cooler...

Really an undeniably happy tune. Petit. I dig it.

Now I stand in anticipation of "The Salmon Dance" - will it live up to its title?
Hrmm, breakbeat based, with a guest rapper. And it's actually one of those "here's how you do this dance" songs. It's cool, I suppose, I'd just expected an acid stormer or something like that. Better than "Left, Right," at least. But then that's saying very, very little.

This is a silly song. It's silly. Does silly belong on a Chems album? Well, the weird/psychedelic factor might be enough to override the sillyness. Perhaps the sillyness is part of the overall psychedelic arc. Yeah, keep telling yourself that...
Well, perhaps I just hold Tom'n'Ed to too high a standard. It's that old DYOH syndrome striking again.

Okay, Burst Generator is bringing it back to the seriousness & the dance. Still waiting for the break, which the building, reverbed guitars indicate will come soon. If this follows though, this could be a good one. Oh yeah, I dig it. This one's a head-nodder. And a spiritual-level booty shaker. Yeah, this is going to kick ass live. I'm going to take a break from typing and enjoy this one.

Several minutes of bliss pass.

Yeah, that was good. Exactly the kind of track that makes me love the Chemical Brothers, love music, and love life. I feel a warmth in my heart and a peace in my mind.

And to make it better, the next track, "A Modern Midnight Conversation" is transitioned. A little electro again, but in the new wavey way, not in the hip-hop-ey way. Ooh, and serene female vocals - I'm a sucker for serene female vocals on a Chems track. This is cool - burbling synths, spastic synths, a bass and percussion track that could be from some unrealized Herbie Hancock/David Byrne collaboration circa 1983, and serene female vocals. A weird combo that works way better than you'd ever expect, and comes out sounding dead serious & spiritual.

I'm a happy man right now.

This album so far, and "A Modern Midnight Conversation" really leaves me wondering what the Chems have been listening to lately. It's like this is a modern electronic dance music album from an alternate universe, were new wave, electro, and acid were all far more influential than they have been in this sphere.

Now it's onto "Battle Scars (ft. Willy Mason)." Okay, apparently the vocal from "No Path to Follow" was lifted from this track. Grizzled blues-folk-ey vocals over a breakbeat-based, rock-structured track, with prominent xylophone in the percussion track. And, of course, some of the Chems synths for good measure. Thoroughly unexpected, but I think I like it rather well...

Is this track a response to that new-fangled "New Weird America" genre? The whole psychedelic folk thing? Let's google this Willy Mason guy. 1984? Crap, he's younger than me - prominent, non bubble-pop musicians being younger than me is still freaking me out...

Okay, "Harpoons" is the penultimate track, and it's just over two minutes - they aren't going to pull another "Pioneer Skies" on me, are they (that was a *great* track that was just missing it's second half). On that note, imagine a live version of "Pioneer Skies" transtioning to the second movement in "The Sunshine Underground" - such awesomeness could not be comprehended by mere mortals...

So "Harpoons" was just content to fiddle around with some noises for two minutes - fine by me. It never threatened to break into a magnum opus of uber-psychedelic proportions as "Pioneer Skies" did. And "Pioneer Skies'" fault was in not following though on that promise, not just making the promise - I like my magnum opi of uber-psychedelic proportions. And if you're saying to yourself right now "proportions can't be psychedelic,"
then you just don't get it, man...

So, "The Pills Won't Help You Know (feat. Midlake)" is a mellow closer, not a storming closer. And I'm enjoying it. It's not occasioning much remark, however. I'm really looking forward to going back & giving "We are the Night" and "Burst Generator" second, third, and fourth listenings.

Yeah, that's a good album. Best initial reaction to a Chems album I've had since Surrender. It has a definate edge on Push the Button, but where it falls overall, I've yet to say.

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