Pity, then, that Singles 93-03, their just-released compilation, doesn’t do them the justice they deserve. There are loads of great moments here, but too many better moments are missing. It is also missing that one element that makes Chemical Brothers albums so engaging: the seamless mix job.
Singles plows through assorted moments in chronological and rather perfunctory fashion. Sure, we get “Song to the Siren” and “Chemical Beats,” from their 1995 debut Exit Planet Dust, but “Life Is Sweet,” the slammin’ duet with Tim Burgess, is absent. Likewise, 1997’s Dig Your Own Hole is represented by “Setting Sun” (though in edited form), “Block Rockin’ Beats” and “The Private Psychedelic Reel,” but “Where Do I Begin,” the duet with Beth Orton used in Vanilla Sky, is left off. Technically, it wasn’t a single, but it is one of their best songs, and no Chemicals compilation should be without it.
Perhaps the most glaring omission is “It Began in Afrika,” the landmark 2001 club track that was hailed an instant classic on its first spin. There is a perfectly good reason for this one, though: the band hates the song now. However, since the band likely already has copies of all their work, perhaps this would be a good time to put the interests of the fans, whom they are hoping will buy their albums, ahead of their own, yes?
The album closes with two new songs. “Get Yourself High” is a nifty electro-beat hip hop track with rapper K-OS that sounds like their own take on “Planet Rock.” The other is “The Golden Path,” a duet with the Flaming Lips that sounds like an update of Echo & The Bunnymen, of all things. Sporting the vocal debut of Flaming Lip Steven Drozd, the narrator sing-speaks about being dead and the beings he meets along the way, with Wayne Coyne closing the song with his unmistakable tenor, begging, “Please forgive me/I never meant to hurt you.”
There is one other aspect to Singles that causes it to suffer: the lack of sequencing. The band almost never goes from one song to another cold. In many instances, they’ll take whatever beat closes one song and change its speed accordingly so it will blend seamlessly into the next one. Sometimes those segue ways are more compelling than the songs themselves. Their absence here may not cause alarm for the uninitiated, but fans of the band will likely be disappointed by their absence.
Singles 93-03 is very good representation of the Chemical Brothers’ astonishing work. However, it would have taken very little to make it a hell of a lot better. A good starting point, but by no means definitive.
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