Push the Button

Studio Album by released in 2004

Push the Button review

Since the release of 1995's Exit Planet Dust, the Chemical Brothers – Tom Roland and Ed Simons – have stood at the forefront of musical innovation. If it is easy to conclude in hindsight that 2001's Come With Us was something of a disappointment, it is a great relief to report that Push the Button represents a triumphant return to form for the Chemical Brothers, both a return to form and a bold reinvention. The overarching mood of this album – notwithstanding two hip-hop numbers – is melodic. Which is not to say that the driving beats and powerful bass lines are gone, merely that they have changed along with the Chems overall sound. When the big beat boom gradually subsided, the Chemical Brothers initially sought refuge within a carefully crafted version of house music both epic and psychedelic.

The first half of the record is heavy on collaboration, beginning with the clear highlight, Galvanize, which features guest Q-Tip riding a delicious mid-tempo groove. The Boxer has ChemBros veteran Tim Burgess of the Charlatans UK coming on, while the next track, Believe, features Britpop newcomer Kele Okereke (of Bloc Party) agonizing over an energized electroshock production composed of equal parts Prince and Chicago acid house. It's clear the Chemical Brothers are still searching restlessly for new sounds and new fusions; only they could alternate a polemical hip-hop track – Left Right, a guest spot for Anwar Superstar with a feature for an indie band, the Magic Numbers (Close Your Eyes). Obviously, it's far more refreshing to explore new territory rather than merely go back over old ground; while Come Inside suffers by aping their 1997 approach, the subsequent track, The Big Jump, finds the pair energized with a fresh gloss on their patented sound. Shake Break Bounce is another flashback, a funky breakbeat track that brings to mind the Chems good friend Norman Cook, AKA Fatboy Slim. It acts as something of a palette cleanser before the album's final movement, beginning with Marvo Ging. The track starts with a backwards steel-guitar loop, gradually giving way to a mid-tempo rock beat and gentle glockenspiel. Marvo Ging eventually gives way to Surface to Air, which serves as a fitting climax to a stridently peripatetic album, building slowly from a quiet synthesizer pulse, gradually adding extra additional elements until it reaches an irresistible crescendo.

Push the Button reaffirms the Chemical Brothers' status as the premiere group in electronic music. They're still making the same type of music they were a decade ago, still creating powerful pop music out of the intersections between disparate genres, but their frame of reference has seen geometric growth. Still, the duo are fusion fans at heart, and their fifth studio album finds them easing back to their true love -- pulverizing stylistic boundaries. Push the Button is rounded and accomplished where Come With Us was uneven and tentative. If you were worried that an unfocused fourth album was the beginning of diminishing returns for the pair, their fifth album serves as a reminder that the Chemical Brothers should never be underestimated. At its best, it makes you forget the idea of abandoning ship altogether. The band on the Titanic would be proud.