The Chemical Brothers – Skipping Like A Stone (Feat. Beck)

Album : For That Beautiful Feeling

Label : EMI
© 2023 The Chemical Brothers

It all starts with an Acid-stretched (the 1990s software program) vocal loop of indeterminate origin before the rhythm reveals itself. And that exact combination heralds the return of the Chemical Brothers, with their first new full length in four years. It’s a subdued, weird, and slyly eclectic release. Beautiful Feeling isn’t situated in any way close to the chill out room, but one supposes it’s more suited to the pace that middle-aged bodies can dance to than the all-out assaults the UK-based duo leveled us with in the 1990s.

The shimmering, k-hole-dropping “Feels Like I Am Dreaming” and the dissonant track four “Goodbye” are the real treats here; “Goodbye” is its own revelation. The distorted organs collide atop each other and a lovely house vocal sample, with a slew of sci-fi arpeggios beneath it all but the Brothers are not avant-garde. They never let it get weird for too long, but they know how to push an envelope or two. The beat isn’t composed of a thousand cats yawning in sync; that beat sounds like a maxed-out 808 and you want to go to carpentry school just to learn how to raise the roof for it (sorry).

That bass line which propels “No Reason” is straight-up future funk like one might have heard in a Paris club in 1999. Except not; the production is too of-the-moment, its structure a bit too perfectly skittery. Likewise, “Fountains” pits almost Caribou/Manitoba-style leftfield elements (and some downright ELP-worthy keyboard wankery) with four-on-the-floor crunch and very light funk vocals.

“Skipping Like a Stone,” with Beck, is a sweet reminder that the 53-year-old can really hit falsettos well when he wants to. Just when you think there might not be enough block rockin’ beats, songs like “Magic Wand” and “The Weight” drop heavy funk in recombinant glory.

The Chemical Brothers were of course one of the first to bring underground sounds to worldwide arenas. And sure, part of that has to do with the kind of spectacle they worked to create—something that Daft Punk and deadmau5 would later adopt, finesse, and blow to the sky so high that it was dead before it hit the ground. The reason the Chemical Brothers still matter is that they’re still so good, and we need them. Even when they’re treading water and not exactly innovating, that water’s the perfect temperature, filled with really good looking people, and with promise of one heck of a fun weekend.

© Mike McGonigal/Qobuz