The Chemical Brothers
Goes well with: Crystal Method, LCD Soundsystem, Daft Punk
To me, the Chemical Brothers are the blip-n-click duo for the people. Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands rarely subscribe to the Dada aesthetic by bombarding eardrums just for the sake of showing they can tweak Casios in excruciating ways. However, they also don't just re-hash Moby's “Porcelain” over and over so they can appeal to soccer moms who are excited to find they like “techno.”
Still, since 1999's Surrender, it's seemed that each ensuing record has become more about a guest-vocalist-led single or two than a unique and cohesive collection of songs. Further doesn't exactly deliver on its title and take the band or its catalog to unexplored realms. But what it does is drop the fancy guest vocals (Rowlands handles most of it himself) and puts the focus back on the record as a whole. Unsurprisingly, the result is their best album in more than a decade.
The eight tracks blend seamlessly with one another and create the old mixtape feel—complete with all kinds of build-ups, releases, highs and lows—that longtime fans fell in love with in the first place. Good on the boys for knowing that sometimes not inviting all the cool kids makes for the best party.
Deth Red Sabaoth
Goes well with: Early-'90s Danzig, Black Sabbath, Elvis
It doesn't take more than a few minutes into Danzig's ninth album before you realize: He's back.
Not that he ever went away, but after a few unfortunate forays into industrial-land and the nearly nu-metal of Circle of Snakes in 2004, this is Danzig returning to his ungodly blues-damaged roots. There's nothing new here, but that's the way I like it.
Danzig has said that he wanted a thicker, more organic sound for the album, so he recorded most of the tracks using an analog approach. The resulting sound is much warmer, but the production overall is rather uneven. However, the songwriting—arguably his best since the early '90s— makes up for it.
His voice gets a bit lost amid the otherwise bone-crushing, galloping opener, “Hammer of the Gods,” before the song picks up with full force, transitioning with ease from his trademark crooning to spine-chilling growls and howls. The 11 tracks draw from the full Danzig repertoire, from slow rockers like “Black Candy” to the acoustic-to-anthemic explosion of “On a Wicked Night” and the epic two-part “Pyre of Souls.” As usual, the doom-and-gloom lyrics and song titles are simultaneously cheesy and awesome.
But what the hell is a “Ju Ju Bone”? Maybe we don't want to know.
Goes well with: Gordon Gano's Army, Surfer Blood, Ned's Atomic Dustbin
Indie bands aspire to accomplish three things: to be artful, to be heartfelt and to rock out. Most accomplish two out of three. Some are loud and earnest but not particularly artful. Others are slick and sincere, but forget how to rock along the way.
And some—well, you get the idea. But with Male Bonding, you get all three, which has some critics comparing these lads from London with another Sub Pop power-punk trio.
Nothing Hurts opens with “Years Not Long” and features a splattering of guitars, a sonic mess that loops around and around. “Crooked Scene” and “Weird Feeling” sound like their titles, with loads of feedback and effects; these guys don't strum their guitars—they strangle them. “Vendors Paradise” is a three-chord pile-driver of a song; it's also a note-for-note copy of “Black” by The Romans, an early '80s surf / lounge act that would occasionally channel the angsty hardcore they were hearing at the beach.
While none of the songs really showcase the vocals, it's the feelings they communicate that matter the most. The lyrics buried under layers of distortion are earnest, but elusive, which makes them all the more arresting. But Male Bonding wouldn't be the beneficiaries of all their recent—and much-deserved—attention if it weren't for the huge hooks that make their songs so compulsively catchy. Give them a listen, but be careful: You just might get stuck with the soundtrack for the rest of your summer.