Not writing a full review of We Are The Night would really be doing The Chemical Brothers an injustice. I have been following the Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands as The Chemical Brothers for almost 10 years now and they remain one of my all-time favorite groups. I have been hotly anticipating their new CD ever since I heard the single "Saturate", known as "Electronic Battle Weapon 8" in single form, back in February. Judging from that single, however, I fully expected We Are The Night to be another brazen step forward for the duo, turning away from their established sound and trying something new.
Much to my delight, I found instead that the new album was a compromise that brought new ideas and a fresh sense of humor to the table as well as a conjuring of memories of the older sounds.
After giving We Are The Night my undivided attention and listening to it a couple times through, I have formed the opinion that the album can be listened to as a bridge between 2002's Come With Us and 2005's Push The Button.
Come With Us seemed to be the pinnacle of the signature psychedelic Chemical Brothers sound. Vast and lush swirling soundscapes endlessly moving forward by the prodding of massive concussive beats. Push The Button seemed more of an exercise in collaboration. It had more of a pop-sensibility about it in terms of its tracks being concise and independent of one another. I dare not use the word formulaic but Push The Button was much more straight forward and different from the bulk of The Chemical Brothers other works.
Exit Planet Dust, Dig Your Own Hole and Come With Us were a cohesive whole. They very much gave the impression of a symphony with different movements. Surrender and to a greater extent Push the Button had much more disparate content. The individual songs on those albums did not seem like they belonged to a single structure. Hodgepodge would be the derogatory word. Eclectic would be its complimentary counterpart.
We Are The Night brings back the over-arching psychedelic melodicism from Exit Planet Dust, Dig Your Own Hole, and Come With Us, while combining diverse individual tracks like Surrender and some of the collaborative, pop sensibility of Push The Button.
The end result is an album that should appeal to anyone who has ever enjoyed The Chemical Brothers.
Opening with "No Path to Follow", We Are The Night instantly establishes itself as an audio journey. Find cushy chair and a comfortable pair of headphones with a lot of bass. "We Are The Night" launches you forward on a ride through the stars with twinkling highs, a chugging beat and a train-like bass line.
"All Rights Reversed" hammers at you with reverberating echoed beats while the Klaxons wail hauntingly. "Saturate" builds and falls, inflates and deflates, crescendos and then spikes to dizzying heights. Layers of melody and a killer drum fill make you want to turn the volume up past the limit.
"Do It Again" was initially disappointing. It seemed very boring almost dull. However, with a melody like blinking LED's and a repeatable mantra-esque chorus/verse it becomes enjoyable though sparse. "Das Spiegel" on the other hand is lush and inviting. Initially, it sounds almost like a George Clinton groove, but as the guitars start strumming, the song begins to call to mind Push The Button's "Marvo Gling". Happy and warm like flying in a dream.
One thing that The Chemical Brothers have never explicitly included in their music is comedy. "The Salmon Dance" featuring Fatlip tears down that barrier with a hilarious song that evokes the brand of humor found in Mr. Oizo's music video for his song "Flat Beat". For some reason, "The Salmon Dance" makes me think of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
"Burst Generator" generates memories of songs like "The Private Psychedelic Reel" from Dig Your Own Hole. It's introspective, driven and its melodies seem to stream by like pinpricks of light rolling on ribbons of sound. Back to space again.
Coming down out of orbit, in the upper atmosphere, floats "A Modern Midnight Conversation" with dipping and rising melodies and a breezy chorus. "Battle Scars" touches down in the middle of a desert with Willy Mason singing a cowboy song while surely riding on horseback. If Jim Morrison were still alive, it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine he'd be making music much like this. Twinkling pianos, and a plodding beat make this track a true stand out.
"Harpoons" pulls the sound underwater, deep, where there are no beats. Only bubbles of inverted sound and an ambient vocal current to guide us to our final destination. "The Pills Won't Help You Now" give the sad impression that the whole trip was just a dream. A quiet, and mournful track reminiscient of work from The Flaming Lips, Midlake helps The Chemical Brothers close the album out with a bittersweet song that inspires that empty feeling you get after the hangover is gone.
In the end, We Are The Night is an experience. Unlike most albums of this nature, the songs can be enjoyed individually but when listened to together become much more.