The Chemical Brothers

Come With Us (Astralwerks)

While Exit Planet Dust's contributions to the big-beat canon have earned the Chemicals vanguard status, each album since their debut has been, in every sense of the phrase, an industrious exercise in button pushing. They mercilessly morphed one of Dig Your Own Hole's best and most accessible tunes -- the Beth Orton collaboration "Where Do I Begin?" -- into a dissonant mash of white noise and backpedaled beats, and have gracefully toed the crossover line with tracks like "Hey Boy, Hey Girl" and "Let Forever Be."

Come With Us, the duo's fourth full-length artist album, borrows more than a few psychedelic curios from its predecessor, Surrender. And why not? Surrender poured a solid foundation for the group, stealing the show at both Woodstock '99 and the first Coachella, and turning Beatles fans everywhere into grinning dance-music groupies. But it's very possible that Tom and Ed's new one might set off mild cases of déjà vu, having the same effect on its fans as the Amnesiac/Kid A phenomenon had on Radiohead devotees.

Both Surrender and Come With Us set out on well-plotted courses, commencing with funky, bass-driven calls to arms ("Music: Response" and "Come With Us") and obtaining closure with "Dream On" and "The Test," featuring ex-Verve front man Richard Ashcroft. The songs are still relentless and experimental, but the production has greatly matured. While Surrender's "Asleep From Day" (featuring Hope Sandoval) is replaced by Orton's sublime lullaby "The State We're In," the trainlike theme in "Asleep . . ." is expounded upon in the new "Pioneer Skies." The simple toy piano found at the beginning of Surrender's "The Sunshine Underground" reinvents itself on "Hoops," scaling to and fro over a wormlike bass explosion. Additionally, the Chems appropriate a recognizable patch from "Out of Control" and splice it into the end of "Come With Us," but a simple panning greatly enhances the tune. Though both records are incredible on their own, it wouldn't be a stretch to see them as opposite views from the same looking glass. If Surrenderwas a stunning body blow, Come With Usis a knockout punch to the face with a rhinestone-studded glove.

 
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