The Chemical Brothers

Surrender

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By the time of the Chemical Brothers' third album, Surrender, the big beat phenomenon they had done much to engender was more apt to be heard on a soft drink commercial than the world's hipper dancefloors. And with the growing omnipresence of big beat's simplistic party vibes threatening to cave in the entire scene, Tom and Ed came to grips with what is -- compared to their previous work -- a house record. The pounding four-on-the-floor thump of tracks like "Music:Response," "Got Glint," and the duo's take on KLF-style stadium house for the single "Hey Boy Hey Girl" signals that this is a transition record for the Chemical Brothers, one that could eventually take them back into the straight-ahead dance mainstream status enjoyed by acts from Daft Punk to Armand Van Helden.

The irony here is that even considering the changes, Surrender still feels very similar to its predecessors. The focus on wave-of-sound production, buckets full of old-school vocal samples, and various sirens and beatbox effects sound like they were lifted wholesale from their breakout album, Dig Your Own Hole, or their first release, Exit Planet Dust. And while a few of the vocal tracks focus on new collaborations, they're along the same lines, making it tough to spot the differences from past albums -- the quavering British vocals of Beth Orton have given way to the quavering American vocals of Hope Sandoval, and the Charlatans' Tim Burgess is replaced by New Order's reclusive Bernard Sumner (a sure sign that the Chemicals have moved up a notch on the music-industry food chain). Also, two returning guests (Noel Gallagher and a member of Mercury Rev, here Jonathan Donahue) make very similar contributions to the record in the identical places they appeared on Dig Your Own Hole. Even besides its simpy title, the Gallagher track "Let Forever Be" is the very same electronica update of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" that made their 1996 collaboration single "Setting Sun" a number one hit in Britain. And the Donahue track, "Dream On," is very similar to the indie psychedelia of "The Private Psychedelic Reel" from Dig Your Own Hole. Sure, the Chemical Brothers do this type of music very well; it's just that Surrender isn't quite the change of direction they'd been aiming for -- it's simply the same great album they'd made two years earlier.

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