The first two tracks on Born In The Echoes, The Chemical Brothers’ eighth albumand first in five years, make it seem that Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons aren’t worried about the EDM scene they inadvertently influenced, but are interested in how they can get involved. “Sometimes I Feel So Deserted” is much scuzzier than EDM’s usual production sheen, but it still has snare rolls, cheesy vocals and whooshes like Tiësto’s private plane. “Go” is a rehash of “Galvanize” with extra fist-pumping synths in the chorus that will appeal more to frat boys than Q-Tip fans. Not that it matters—lyrics like “No time to rest / Just do your best” don’t make for particularly eloquent rhyming.
Listen further, though, and Born In The Echoes becomes as much about middle-aged ennui as youthful euphoria. When St. Vincent ponders suicide on “Under Neon Lights” it hardly gets you reaching for the lasers, and same goes for Beck lamenting, “You’re slipping away from me,” on “Wide Open.” On “EML Ritual,” Ali Love intones, “I’m going to lose my mind,” and it sounds more like a lesson in the pains of hedonism than the pleasures.
Considering Simons’ semi-retirement and comments about the difficulties of keeping things “rewarding and exciting,” it seems possible this is the last Chemical Brothers LP. But if they’re feeling tired, the music more than makes up for it. Take “Reflexion,” which is like James Holden after downing 12 pints of lager. Some ideas seem more exhausted, like “I’ll See You There,” the album’s obligatory “Tomorrow Never Knows” clone, and the acidic “Just Bang,” another bit of Chems-by-numbers.
Born In The Echoes follows the duo’s formula of saving the more psychedelic tracks for the end. “Taste Of Honey” boasts a Grateful Dead guitar and general Haight-Ashbury vibe, and the unsettling title track’s distorted beats and FX are about as weird as Cat Le Bon’s featured performance. Gooey synths, a warmhearted vocal and shoegaze guitar make “Radiate” a gorgeous sunrise moment. Yet rather than bow out there, Rowlands and Simons ride off into the sunset on the sleek ’80s synth-pop of “Wide Open.” It’s no blaze of glory, but it’s not a bad way to go out.
01. Sometimes I Feel So Deserted
03. Under Neon Lights
04. EML Ritual
05. I’ll See You There
06. Just Bang
08. Taste Of Honey
09. Born In The Echoes
11. Wide Open