Friday, December 3, 2010

Chems Play Beatles

Listening for the umpteenth time to the Chemical Brothers' magnificent return to form, 2010's Forward, it finally clicked where all the trippiness was coming from -- not so much from allusions to Private Psychedelic Reel, but the Beatles' work circa 1967. Specifically, sections of Forward are reminiscent of the Fab's Strawberry Fields-Sgt Pepper-Baby, you're a rich man-Magical Mystery Tour period. This is apparent from as early as Forward's track 2, Escape Velocity: in this song there's even an upward-scaling chord crescendo that sounds so like A day in the life that at one point I began thinking of Radio London's Final Hour broadcast (A day in the life was the last track played by that pirate station).

But it's not just that crescendo. It's the figuration, the sounds themselves, the swirling effects, and the abrupt shifts in the musical textures the Chems have fashioned here. This album, not those of  E.L.O, is the culmination of I am the Walrus's and Blue Jay Way's legacy. The Beatles, of course, made trippiness a mass phenomenon, so evoking that period makes a lot of sense. On track 4, Dissolve, the trippy elements are there at the beginning, but then there's the refrain, Caroline, Caroline. At first I assumed it was a reference to a girl. But now I'm not so sure. Maybe it's a reference (even if unconscious) to the other big pirate station of 1967, Radio Caroline?

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