The Chemical Brothers

Push the Button (Astralwerks)

With 1997's Dig Your Own Hole, the Brothers Chemical -- Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons -- kicked up dust via a hybrid of big-beat production and pop sensibilities that was simultaneously stimulating and ultra-commercial. They continue to refine this formula on Push the Button, but because their techniques now constitute the industry standard, the music sounds a lot less fresh than it once did.

The highest-profile tracks set the tenor for the disc as a whole. "Galvanize," which juxtaposes a vocal by Q-Tip with an Eastern-sounding string sample, is interesting but not quite, er, galvanizing, while "The Boxer," sung by Charlatans UK leader Tim Burgess, suggests a minor update on the early-'90s Mancunian sound; earth-shattering, it's not. Several of the other cuts are more enjoyable, particularly the convincingly ecstatic "Believe" and "The Big Jump," whose arrangement hops around like a punch-drunk kangaroo. Yet even the disc's best material lacks the spark of innovation that once characterized the typical reaction to the Chemicals. Rowlands and Simons need to start pushing some different buttons.

 
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