I first have to start off and admit that I am somewhat a fan of the Chemical Brothers and their work. Along with such acts as The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, and Crystal Method, they were pioneers of the big beat electronic dance genre which became mainstream during the 1990s, but unlike the rest they have managed to stay relevant. Since their inception as the Dust Brothers, they have had sixteen years of some amazing Grammy-winning albums, chart-topping singles, and possibly the best live show act imaginable while continuing to evolve their sound. I was a bit curious, though, when I found out that they were releasing a second compilation CD just five years after releasing the first one, since during that time span they hadn't released that much of relevance that warranted another best of collection. Their newest compilation, which is titled Brotherhood, seems more of a ploy to introduce the body of their best work to the American audience since the Chemical Brothers have enjoyed recent success here with both of their last two albums gaining a Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album.
So, why should anyone buy this update to the previous best of collection that was released just five years ago? The two differences between Brotherhood and their previous Singles 1993-2003 is that four tracks have been dropped and been replaced with four singles from previous albums "Push the Button" and "We Are the Night," plus they have added a new release and unlike the last compilation, none of the tracks are in chronological order. The main treat to this new release (and the reason to buy it) is that if you purchase the special edition of this album, you receive a second disc which contains all ten of the Brothers' coveted "Electronic Battle Weapons" tracks. These early mixes of their tracks were released as promos for DJs to floor-test in very limited quantities, and of course this is the selling point to this updated compilation release, but unfortunately I did not receive that special edition set. Without that piece of work, we are pretty much left to review the main disc and the new single it contains. While some may complain about a lack of chronological order, I feel that mingling their tracks in no certain order demonstrates that the Chemical Brothers are actually roughly as good as they always were and that their older music remains just as relevant as their newer releases.
So, how do the tracks hold up in 2008? Such tracks like "Leave Home" (purchase/download) and the great "Setting Sun," with haunting vocals by Noel Gallagher, remains some of their best work and still hold up to this day but it's material from "Surrender" that stands up best by shedding off the big beat sound to evolve into a darker house-oriented sound. Some tracks like "Hey Boy Hey Girl" may come off a bit silly but its brilliantly multilayered sound makes it so infectious and a joy to listen to while "Out of Control" (purchase/download) proved to be the better track of that particular album and holds up well here too. Of course it is no surprise that they pulled material from "Come with Us" album due to the single "Galvanize" being a hit. The rest of the album was a bit lacking, in my opinion, but "Galvanize" (purchase/download) proved they had the talent and still could be innovative just like last year's "Saturate" which proved they are still the masters of massive instrumental dance even though the track was never released as a single (from what I can remember). Other songs worth mentioning are "Block Rockin' Beats," with its pulsating sirens and beats, and "Let Forever Be" which is another track that makes great use of Noel Gallagher vocals again for an intense listening experience. As far as the new track on this compilation set, "Keep My Composure" is another great track that proves the Chemical's Brothers ability to provide a track with some true electronic funk.
To sum it all up, Brotherhood is a great introduction to Chemical Brothers if you don't have any of their previous albums or are just getting into them. This massive compilation is seething with sirens, drum rolls, and all the energy one would need for a great night out at the club. The quality of music is undeniable but for the hardcore fans, this release is nothing new unless you purchase the special edition with the bonus disc that includes all ten of the "Electronic Battle Weapon" tracks that found the Chemical Brothers working out tracks on white-label before they debuted their major-label work. That is what makes the purchase of this new release for those true fans special but there will be some hardcore fans that will disagree about the choice of songs (where was "The Salmon Dance") so it really depends on what you are looking for in this release. For this review, I would have to say it is definitely worth getting the special edition because even though the music contained in the first disc is amazing, it is really nothing new that can't be found on other releases or on the other greatest hits collection.
Released September 2, 2008 on Astralwerks.