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The Chemical Brothers 

Come With Us (Astralwerks)

The Chemical Brothers' trip has been neither particularly long nor all that strange. In fact, each of the duo's four albums since 1995's Exit Planet Dust -- including the new Come With Us -- has been an extension and logical progression of its predecessor. From the electro-rock extravaganza of the Chemicals' commercial breakthrough Dig Your Own Hole to the psychedelic mind-trappings of Surrender, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons have played each album as a calculated move in a not-so-chancy game of cards in which they hold winning hands.

And so it should come as little surprise that there are plenty of big beats on Come With Us. Attempting to lift itself from the techno gutter it helped construct (must every single car commercial play out over raging electronica these days?), Surrender was spacey, spotty, and somber -- not necessarily a bad thing. On Come With Us, the Chemicals dive back in, overjoyed, euphoric, and intoxicated by the prospects. There are some down cuts here (as well as a couple of pointless vocal tracks featuring frequent collaborator Beth Orton and the mopey Richard Ashcroft, whose performance on "The Test" is supposed to be all dreamy, but actually comes closer to being way tiresome), but this is mostly about the beat.

And what beats they are! The loopy "It Began in Afrika" is driven by the most natural percussion the guys have ever used. And "Star Guitar" unfolds over a building rhythm that makes it sound a bit Daft Punky in its open-armed embrace of disco culture. These are two of the better moments on an album that sort of sets itself up as the new-millennium Chemical Brothers. But it's a similar story in the end. Same Tom and Ed. Same block-rockin' beats.

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