For That Beautiful Feeling
From the instant that a disorienting, time-stretched vocal loop collides with a rock-steady four-to-the-floor beat in the brief but invigorating “Intro,” it’s clear that The Chemical Brothers are here to rave. The duo’s 10th album, their first since 2019’s No Geography, is a no-holds-barred attempt to channel all the energy and euphoria of their live shows into the album format, and it’s a testament to their success that the record’s compact, 47-minute runtime can barely contain all the four-dimensional dynamism within. It’s even sequenced like a DJ mix, careening almost seamlessly across gnarly acid bangers, slow-motion big-beat throwbacks, and the sorts of stadium-sized, hands-in-the-air, sun-emerging-from-behind-the-clouds anthems that they do better than just about anyone. The duo’s Tom Rowlands tells Apple Music’s Zane Lowe that the album came together in pursuit of “the moment of feeling like something is lifting off in the studio.” That’s the perfect metaphor for “Live Again”: The song’s opening bars of surging shoegaze swirl, segueing directly out of “Intro,” have all the pent-up energy of a NASA launchpad, and once the song kicks off—serenaded by a dulcet refrain from Paris’ Halo Maud—it just keeps rocketing upward, propelled by endlessly rising glissandi. They describe their approach as a kind of deconstruction—“Sometimes you start with a quite songy song, but then you spend about three years destroying that song,” says Rowlands—and it’s audible in “No Reason,” a late-night epic that’s stripped down to little more than funk bass, extended snare rolls, and the occasional crowd-stoking whoop. Throughout, they keep finding new ways to mix up the essential components of big beats, bigger basslines, and titanic hooks. “Fountains” is psychedelic disco set to a Neptunes-inspired drum pattern; “Magic Wand” pairs breakbeat rave with old-school hip-hop ad-libs and a spooky a cappella; “The Weight” calls back to the slow-motion grind of their earliest hits and then turns all the dials to 11. Part of The Chemical Brothers’ genius has always been their balance of kinetic oomph and transcendent melodies, and that’s all over this album, most noticeably in the heavenly “Skipping Like a Stone,” a shoegaze-flavored jam featuring Beck at his melodic best. He paints a forlorn picture—“When you feel like nothing really matters/When you feel alone/When you feel like all your life is shattered/And you can’t go home”—before promising to “come skipping like a stone” in a chorus imbued with both childlike innocence and reassuring empathy. Going into the album, Rowlands says, was the idea to “make something that had a real direct emotional heart,” but to sculpt it in such a way “where it would still feel like our world.” Their Beck collab is exactly that: It’s a super-sized song about overwhelming feelings and all-encompassing love, the emotional cornerstone to one of the most ebullient albums in the duo’s career.