MUSIC: Apr 05, AU Edition

Chemical Brothers’ new dance album starts out slow,
plus, it’s a spice world – we’re still living in it

EB_FM.jpgEmma Bunton
“Free Me”, 19
2 stars

Does the world really need a new Spice Girls? Of course! Then thank the “reality” TV gods for Girls Aloud, five saucy femmes brought together in 2002 by the British show Popstars: The Rivals. Their second album, What Will the Neighbours Say? is everything prefab pop should be: fun, cheesy and, of course, maddeningly infectious. Songs such as “The Show” and “Thank Me Daddy” channel the giddiness of teen-age lust and rebellion through sleek, jittery dance beats. The cover of the Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand by You” is pure slow-dance-at-the-prom schlock.
As they yearn for the same bad boys they insult for playing too rough, Girls Aloud exude PG-rated sexiness and grade-school feminism – an irresistible combination, as anyone who ever sang along to “Wannabe” knows.
What the world doesn’t need is the old Spice Girls, if Free Me, the second solo album by ex – “Baby Spice” Emma Bunton, is any indication.
Seemingly aiming for a more “mature” audience, Bunton coos wispy pledges of love over breezy soft pop that’s as pleasant as an afternoon spent sunbathing on the beach, and just as boring. The gently pulsating “Maybe” and “Breathing,” as well as her cover of Marcos Valle’s “Crickets Sing for Anamaria,” indicate that Bunton and her collaborators have been listening to a lot of bossa nova, but her expressionless voice makes you yearn for Astrud Gilberto. It all sounds flat, lifeless, and in desperate need of – dare I say it? – spice.
Reviewed by Amy Phillips

chemical_bros_pushbutton.jpgThe Chemical Brothers
“Push the Button”, Astralwerks
3 stars

It’s hard work to stay at the top of a field as mercilessly mutating as dance music. And “Galvanize,” the first track on the Chemical Brothers’ fifth full-length, suggests that, eight years after their mainstream breakthrough, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons might finally be ready for the cut-out bin.
“A Tribe Called Quest’s Q Tip” delivers a dull, witless rap over a relentlessly repetitive 6-minute big-beat groove that fails to get the party started.
So skip it. And don’t worry: They may not be innovating anymore, but the Brothers still know how to work it out. Because starting with “The Boxer,” a stuttering groove with vocals by Tim Burgess of Charlatans U.K., and the thumping “Believe,” with Kele Okereke of Bloc Party, Rowlands and Simons get back on track.
Stepping into the role usually reserved for Beth Orton, Anna-Lynne Williams does the ethereal female vocal turn on “Hold Tight London,” which starts in the chill-out room, then makes its move to the dance floor.
The Brothers would do well to note that Button’s finest creation, the elegantly paced closer, “Surface to Air,” takes care of its trippy, ecstatic business without the distraction of a guest vocalist.
Reviewed by Dan DeLuca