Head Turnin' Floor Burnin'

Jun 30, 1999 at 12:00 am

Call ’em retro, call ’em rock-no, call ’em born-again ravers, call ’em whatever, because the sad but glorious truth is that the Chemical Brothers are all these (and all that) on this, their third full-length. Beginning with the electro short-circuiting-robot funk of "Music: Response" and moving right into the hard, dusted 909 drums of "Under the Influence," with its pie-eyed freefall bassline that comes crashing through the track every 64 bars or so, the Chems don’t so much as look up before dropping "Out of Control," the best New Order song of the last 10 years and featuring, not uncoincidentally, Barney Sumner of New Order.

In just over 10 minutes, they’ve jammed in acid house, early rave, Britpop and even some jungle bass lows, all without a pause and – more importantly – done it well enough that listeners are too busy enjoying themselves to notice. Where the Chems circa 1997’s Dig Your Own Hole was making sample-based college rock, Surrender is Tom and Ed taking their grooveboxes back to the simple, rushing economy of the dance floor. Oh sure, there’s some reprising of Dig’s indie rock indulgences, namely another send-up of the Beatles’ "Tomorrow Never Knows," ("Let Forever Be," featuring Noel Gallagher – again); and another meandering closer ("Dream On") with vocals courtesy of Mercury Rev’s Jonathon Donahue. But here, among the harder dance fare, these detours give Surrender a welcome depth and maturity, making it the work of a band as excited by the neo-trance house of Paul van Dyk as they are about the Happy Mondays reforming, er, at least getting back together.

This is the Chems all grown up, and still getting down. Well done.