Chart-smashing days long behind them, the Chemical Brothers have settled into a mid-career flow of tight, accomplished electronic albums. Nothing flash, nothing off-the-wall, just superior synthetic music for the mind, body and soul.
No Geography is no exception. As is often the case with bands trying to re-activate a fanbase, the singles, especially MAH and We’ve Got To Try, hark back to previous work, but are actually the least characteristic and least interesting parts of the album.
An opening suite of three songs gets better as it goes along. Eve of Destruction is helped on its way by Norwegian singer Aurora, Japanese rapper NENE and a soul sample – “maybe I’ll find a friend” – but is fairly by-the-book Chemicals. Things move up a notch when the rattling cow bell segues into Bango. Here, Aurora’s vocals work melodically and rhythmically against the rest of the track to keep things interesting. Eventually this gives way to the euphoric heights of the title track – “if you ever change your mind about leaving it all behind, remember – no geography”.
The best of the singles, Got To Keep On maintains the pace, turns things dreamy on the backing vocals and chucks in literal bells and (human) whistles to keep the mood uplifting. It’s souped-up 21st century Mike Oldfield. In fact, you could get this far into the album without being entirely sure you’re listening to The Chemical Brothers.
The aforementioned We’ve Got To Try and the Network-quoting MAH leave us in no doubt who we’re listening to with their familiar beats and bleeps, while the prog-gothy underpinnings of The Universe Sent Me and the Twilight Zone-y sense of foreboding on Free Yourself give the album a couple of darker moments. Catch Me I’m Falling is the only time the bpms dip, providing a happy-sad comedown on which to end. “And the danger is so much greater when it comes to losin’ you” sings the sampled Emanuel Lasky by way of response to guest vocalist Stephanie Dosen. Lovely stuff.
No Geography might not define an era like the albums of old, but blasted out into the hot summer air, it’ll achieve much the same effect.