August 9, 2007

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Chemical Brothers, We Are the Night
Astralwerks Records, 2007
Secret Stealth, Hooked On You
Kosmika Music, 2007
Chromeo, Fancy Footwork
Vice Records, 2007

No smarty-pants article should change your mind about what the actual-real soundtrack to your own personal summer of 2007 is. Unless you’re a techno-head, that is, and you like to own nice things. These three new entries are the latest horses in the race for my own personal actual-real blah blah blah, with Chromeo lagging behind when their ’80s-ness tries too hard to sound like the backdrop for one of those Molly Ringwald/Ducky-banter scenes in the busy high school caf. There have already been critical complaints to that effect, but making fun of the ’80s is about as challenging as playing badminton with a Riunite-flattened street bum, and failing to make readers aware of Chromeo’s synth chops and indie-rock sensibilities should be grounds for class action suits.

Chemical Brothers, whom even your grandmother knows from the symphonic techno beat of “Galvanize” on the Budweiser commercial, offer nothing that bombastic on their new album, but their fierce little rave-bloops, non-sequiturs and supreme catchiness take up the slack. “Burst Generator” is a scorching, serious, really pretty fractal, the polar opposite of “The Salmon Dance,” which gives today’s cruddy hip-hop an insolent cartoon jab through the power of kindergartener rap (“all my peeps spend part of their life in fresh water”). Hopefully nobody is trying to “figure out” the Chemical Brothers, but if you are, your straightjacket awaits within the instrumental “Saturate,” where Atari synths try to keep pace with Alex Van Halen-sounding drums in a hilarious gag.

Hilarious, quirky, tech-house slam-dunks may not be for you, though, and that’s where Secret Stealth comes in, bearing stop-the-presses neo-70s chill jams, Rastafarian oof-alongs and bubbly funk/soul tunes that deserve big-name remixes, not that they don’t stand up as is. As a plus, you’ll quickly learn where to hit the skip button here (it’s hard to imagine “Wacky Backy” ever being described in positive terms), a level of convenience you rarely get for your buck.Chemical Brothers: A Secret Stealth: A- Chromeo: B-Eric W. Saeger