No Geography

The Chemical Brothers

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No Geography Review

by Neil Z. Yeung

On a brisk set with some familiar callbacks to their big beat heyday, the Chemical Brothers offer a decent late-era installment with their ninth album, No Geography. Not as exploratory or insular as their other 2010s output, No Geography is a steady, no-frills mix that focuses more on clever samples than guest vocals and festival-sized body-rocking. Standing out atop the pack, the singles are the best moments on the album. Persistent throbber "Got to Keep On" rides a glittery disco-funk sample (Peter Brown's 1977 gem "Dance With Me") while "We've Got to Try" goes the soul route by swiping the uplifting vocals from the Hallelujah Chorus' "I've Got to Find a Way" and grinding them into a buzzy, robust anthem that recalls the duo's late-'90s best. In a similar vein, "Free Yourself" is all digital dread, taking snippets of Diane di Prima's utopian poetry and twisting them into a robotic instruction manual for liberation through the dancefloor. However, "MAH" ends up being the riotous highlight of No Geography (utilizing a hilariously crotchety El Coco sample from 1977), the closest the Chems come to that "classic" old-school sound. In addition to the singles, Norwegian singer Aurora plays an important role in the album's sound, bringing much-needed emotion to a trio of songs with her ethereal vocals and songwriting. Japanese rapper Nene also guests, dropping a scene-stealing and all-too-brief verse on "Eve of Destruction." While not a low in the Chemical Brothers' catalog by any means, No Geography is also not their strongest or most memorable work to date. It's best not to call it a comeback, just another ample addition to their decades-long discography.

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