The Chemical Brothers – Surrender (1999)

It had been two years since the previous album by The Chemical Brothers had been released. The (then) new album is a good mixture of quality tunes. Let’s dive in and have a listen.

We begin with Music:Response, a futuristic and funktastic piece which sounds expertly and wonderfully done. It has pounding beats, a robotic voice sample, funky guitar sounds and all sorts of twists and turns. Mint. It sounds surreal for sure. Tripped out to the max here.

The next cut Under The Influence of course, refers to drug use. It’s an uplifting and futuristic psychedelic piece here which is thoroughly enjoyable. “Who’s under the influence?” indeed. It concludes with subsonic bass and a statement saying: “Don’t run…” What were the duo implying?

Out Of Control is a great house music like piece featuring New Order singer Bernard Sumner and does well here to show off its musicality. It’s a great mainstream sort of piece here without being unoriginal. A good effort here. Some nice singing here and lyrics as well. “Could be that I am just losing my touch, or maybe you think my moustache is too much?” Great lyrical insight here.

Orange Wedge has some great plucked bass guitar parts and some interesting static squelches. It’s The Chemical Brothers broadening and expanding their sound. It’s perhaps not the greatest thing the duo ever did, but sounds interesting all the same. It’s trippy beyond words, however.

Probably the most depressing song Noel Gallagher ever contributed to, Let Forever Be is really depressing, but great. He comes across singing as a street preacher, before asking the quintessential question: “How does it feel like…to spend a little lifetime sitting in the gutter?” Sad yet this is a great song all the same. A great collaboration is here. It sounds like Joy Division in the 21st century, but with Noel Gallagher singing. A great piece. At the end it crashes into the abyss.

The following tune The Sunshine Underground is an ethereal piece that sounds psychedelic and great here as well. The slowed down drumbeat and chanted vocals here do well. It’s a Neo hippy delight. African drums are here to spice things up too. It then warps into a beatastic piece with wind chimes which sounds fantastic. This is a mega trip. A great effort here by The Chemical Brothers. At the end, we have some sunrays of colourful music come through here.

Asleep From Day is the next piece, with some beautiful vocals and intertwining textures that just kick ass. This is a good chillout sort of piece that works well. It has some interesting instrumentation in it and just sounds good. A nice tune. A computerised xylophone finishes this off.

Got Glint? is a psychedelic instrumental piece that seems a little lacklustre. But even so, it shines brightly this album overall, so that even a piece like this is quite good listening. It mixes some robotic statements with trippy sounds, a nice mix here of unusual sounds. The end is very quiet indeed.

The big hit from the album Hey Boy Hey Girl is a house based pounding beatastic number. It is interesting and radio ready, simply a good tune. Some surreal sounds are here, a must listen. The outro is tripped out.

Here we have the title track Surrender. This piece starts slow, then builds up into a colourful concoction of sounds. It seems a little repetitive, but sounds not out of place in a city like Tokyo. It’s really that well advanced here, and a good but not great listen.

Dream On is the last piece on the album. It doesn’t sound at all in its place here, and could have been rethought here. Sounds more like a rock band than The Chemical Brothers really. It’s not all that bad though. A twist at the end occurs which is surprising though.

This album is a good listen to after a heavy night out in the club. It’s perhaps not the best EDM album you’ll ever hear, but is a worthy addition to your collection. A 20th anniversary re-release is available for those who would like to seek out some extra tunes from the era.

Good album overall.

7/10

Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile (1999)

It was a difficult time in Trent Reznor’s life. He had achieved some commercial success with The Downward Spiral in 1994. But, from the release of the album onwards, he became increasingly depressed and felt suicidal. He spent the next five years honing his craft onto this double-disc concept album, The Fragile. It was quite a while to do so. Some fans became impatient with this approach, and this affected sales, not selling as well as The Downward Spiral.

Despite all this, Trent Reznor made a truly great album here. It’s a double-disc concept album about attempting to rectify a bad time. The time making the record was not wasted. We can hear a huge array of interesting, unique and consistent sounds on offer. It finishes the nineties trilogy of primary releases by Trent Reznor of Broken, The Downward Spiral and this album, The Fragile.

Let’s observe this masterpiece, track by track.

We kick off with Somewhat Damaged. It’s a great listen, with a basic chugging riff, electronic sounds and pounding drums galore, along with Trent Reznor screaming. It blows away everything else at the time. It’s so unique and well done, a great way to start the record.

The next piece, The Day The World Went Away, is a very depressing sounding piece. There are no drums in it, making it sound unusual, for sure. It talks in a very dark sense about struggling to deal with emotional torment, not exactly easy listening, but great all the same.

The Frail is an understated solo piano piece with some atmospheric sounds at the end of it. It’s very sad sounding but is a welcome change with a variety of instrumentation in the album.

The Wretched continues in fashion the piano playing, leading into a proper song this time. It’s about the fragility of human existence with respect to doing the right thing. “Now, you’re one of us. The wretched,” sings Trent Reznor. His screaming returns in the chorus. Epic piece.

The next song, We’re In This Together, is a prolonged piece about being in a miserable situation with someone, and sharing that experience. It goes on for seven minutes or so but never lets up in terms of an interesting piece. It is so well done though, it sounds futuristic.

The follow-up, The Fragile is the title track and a sad love song discussing preventing a lady from falling apart. It sounds more so that Trent Reznor is falling apart emotionally here, but is excellent nonetheless.

Just Like You Imagined is not specifically that, but is a good instrumental that uses a great variety of sounds together for listening. Not bad a listen all the same.

Even Deeper explains emotional distress and has a great bassline to it. It’s a more subdued piece from Trent Reznor, but a good one which is rather catchy. It’s progressing the concept of this monster album very nicely.

Another instrumental, Pilgrimage, sounds like a disturbed pilgrimage at that. It’s a short and not as good as you’d think instrumental, but all the same, listenable.

The heavy metal inspired No, You Don’t with its repetitive and catchy riff is a good piece about comparing oneself to another person, “You think you have everything, but, no, you, don’t!” cries Trent Reznor in his typical sung/screaming complex. A good piece, with a twist at the end.

La Mer is a mostly solo piano piece with some beautiful French interpretations of Nine Inch Nails lyrics. It’s a great piece nonetheless, and one of the most beautiful and simultaneously depressing pieces that you can hear today. Mint.

The Great Below is by far one of the most depressing Nine Inch Nails pieces out there. It seemingly talks directly about suicide and negative issues, but it is well worth listening to. Disc one ends here.

Disc two kicks off with The Way Out Is Through and repeats the lyrics, “All I’ve undergone…I will keep on…” suggesting some hope in the dark music at hand. It features a wonderful array of vocalized sound effects that sound very much like something from a video game, brilliant indeed.

The follow up Into The Void reprises La Mer with the main melody, but is very weak a piece. It has Trent Reznor going from mumbling to screaming as the song progresses, which is a nice touch.

Where Is Everybody? is quite a good rhythmic and danceable piece, although as indicated already, Disc Two is not as good as Disc One. Still, it’s okay overall for the flow and concept of the overall album.

The Mark Has Been Made is the next piece, and it’s a sonic rich, yet dull instrumental. There is no great melody or memorable parts to it. Outside of the album, it falls flat. Fortunately, it fits well on the album.

The next song, Please, is much better. It has Trent Reznor screaming about urges in life and the way he feels about it. It’s the calm before the storm of the next piece.

The main hit single from the album Starfuckers, Inc. sounds awesome, catchy and quiet/loud. It’s an awesome piece, well worth listening to, having a cynical stab of the nature of being a rockstar. Brilliant.

Complication is a short instrumental, which is okay, but not out there fantastic. It ends with some warm bass like sounds, before entering into the next song.

I’m Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally is a very good piece, despite it sounding like a pseudo-suicide note by Trent Reznor. It’s revealing and we are glad that Trent Reznor battled on throughout whatever issues he may have had. A good effort.

The next piece, The Big Come Down, is about said subject. “The big come down, isn’t that what you wanted?” asks Trent Reznor. It’s a funky yet somewhat weak piece from our master of doom but fits in okay with the album.

Following up is essentially a remix which is called Underneath It All. It’s a very good remix of The Great Below. The outro is fantastic, featuring some very trippy vocals and finishes the piece nicely.

Ripe (With Decay) is the final piece on the second side of this album, which is the last piece on the whole album. It’s a picturesque instrumental and we come to the end of this very dark album.

Realistically speaking, this album is a better sonic journey than that album. There are many different sounds and layers to explore on it. If you really have had a bad day or experience and need some music to vent through, look no further.

9/10