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‘Push The Button’: The Chemical Brothers Keep Their Finger On The Pulse

With their ‘Push The Button’ album, The Chemical Brothers moved with the times, putting their own twist on past sounds and contemporary influences.

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The Chemical Brothers Push The Button album cover 820

Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, aka The Chemical Brothers, upped the ante when it came to the guest spots on their fifth album. Released on 13 January 2005, the Grammy-winning Push The Button started as it meant to go on, with album opener – and smash hit single – ‘Galvanize’ (also a Grammy winner, for Best Dance Recording) featuring both the much-vaunted rapper Q-Tip (from New York’s A Tribe Called Quest) and the lyric that gave the album its title.

Listen to Push The Button on Apple Music and Spotify.

Moving with the times

The slow-building sizzler uses Moroccan chaabi music as its sample base, and has a great, krumping-filled video (that style of street dance then being a source of fascination in the media, due to the documentary Rize). ‘Galvanize’ was later remixed by UK turntablists Scratch Perverts for the computer game DJ Hero 2, and was also covered by Pete Tong for his 2017 classical dance tribute collection, Ibiza Classics. (The collaboration worked out so well that Tom and Ed reunited with Q-Tip for ‘Go’, on 2015’s Born In The Echoes.)

Push The Button also contains a low-slung hip-hop companion piece to ‘Galvanize’, ‘Left Right’, which features the Mos Def collaborator Anwar Superstar. On ‘The Boxer’, the Chems pulled in Tim Burgess, from Manchester indie act The Charlatans. The sometime Manchester-dwelling duo had a long relationship with Burgess’ band, having first worked with them on some remixes back in 1995, as well as featuring Burgess on their early single ‘Life Is Sweet’ (from their debut album, Exit Planet Dust).

Moving with the times, the rave-tinged ‘The Boxer’, as psychedelic as all the duo’s Charlatans collaborations, received a highly-praised remix from indie-dance specialists DFA. The latter continued dance music’s tradition of crossover mixes (which had been greatly helped on its way by the Chems themselves, in the mid-90s), taking things back to the era of New York’s Paradise Garage for their massively extended, ticking, tinkling, boogieing workout.

Putting their own twist on past sounds

The guttural ‘Believe’ is built around the refrain “I needed to believe in something” – a phrase that neatly sums up the acid house years that birthed the Chems’ career. Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke was on hand for vocal duties, but the song’s true lift came from its award-winning video, centred around an out-of-control assembly robot run amok. Another indie-dance legend, Erol Alkan, provided a suitably gritty single re-rub.

The blurry, yet propulsive and percussive ‘Hold Tight London’, with vocals from the much in-demand American singer Anna-Lynne Williams (aka Lotte Kestner), then offers something of an underrated highlight, with 80s dub effects and Williams’ soothing voice skimming across the city’s horizon, before things amp up psychedelically again.

‘Come Inside’ and the wiggly ‘The Big Jump’ are influenced by punk-funk, tapping into the cowbell-heavy style (an influence on the Brothers in their early days) that was back in fashion at the time. As opposed to the bands who just rehashed the past, however, Rowlands and Simon put their own twist on it, recalling some of their 90s work. ‘Close Your Eyes’, conversely, is fronted by the dreamy, Heavenly-signed indie group The Magic Numbers (then in the charts with ‘Love Me Like You’), who only required gentle touches from the dynamic duo to underscore their crestfallen piece while ensuring that all guitar angles are covered on the album.

Pushing on once more

‘Shake Break Bounce’ scoots along on a Latin guitar lick and beefed-up dancehall reggae rhythm section, before the festival hoedown ‘Marvo Ging’ cuts in, recalling the mid-90s’ world fusion scene and such irresistible hits as The Grid’s ‘Swamp Thing’, with a hint of Lemon Jelly in the mix. Push The Button closes with the giddy, uplifting ‘Surface To Air’, an anthemic Chems piece in the mould of ‘Star Guitar’.

At a time when The Chemical Brothers could have rested on their laurels, Push The Button found them pushing on once more, continuing to scoop up contemporary influences and throw them into the pot – with explosive results.

Push The Button can be bought here.

Listen to the best of The Chemical Brothers on Apple Music and Spotify.

Format: UK English
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