Ever encountered a moment when, through no fault of its own, an album just seems to go under-appreciated and/or just generally taken for granted, reader? It’s not an incredibly common occurrence, but it does happen; every so often, an album will suffer because it really just feels like “more of the same,” no matter how good it might be. For The Chemical Brothers, that album was Come With Us, their fourth full-length release. After the successes of both Dig Your Own Hole and Surrender, the group’s fan base was established and waiting for something new. But when Come With Us arrived (three years after Surrender), fans simply did not respond with the same excitement that they had previously. Critics were positive and sales were respectable, but it just felt as though there was something missing from Come With Us and that translated to a diminished return.
Even now, fifteen years after its original release, it’s difficult to shake the “Yup – it’s another Chemical Brothers album” vibe from Come With Us as the title track opens the A-side of the Astralwerks reissue. Right off, the vocal part (“Come with us – and leave your Earth behind/ Bright and clear, we see the light/ Our universe is at your side, please lead us to other suns more ripe/ Behold!”) can’t stop itself from feeling a little trite and “done” because it just moves so stiffly. When the beat kicks in, the going gets slightly more palatable, but not much, and it still feels like an awful lot of wind-up without much of delivery, and the album stays that course through “It Began In Afrika” – although the energy at least picks up a little there with the help of some great polyrhythmic samples and increased tempo.
The dichotomy between those two opening songs proves to be a simple one that The Chemical Brothers would start using regularly on future releases; the build comes from the first cut and is then followed by a more frenetic follow-up in order to try and get some blood rushing. It works here, by degrees, but there’s no question that The Chemical Brothers would get better at it than is expressed in this introduction.
… Unfortunately, what the group wouldn’t do is get better at it on this album. As each side progresses, the songs seem to get longer and, while there are some strong cuts (“My Elastic Eye” remains a personal favorite, but “Star Guitar” and the Richard Ashcroft-enriched track “The Test” continue to play pretty well), the longer drags are more regularly apparent – even intensified by the fact that the highs on this album aren’t even as good as the average ones on either Dig Your Own Hole or Surrender. That problem is still apparent now, fifteen years later.
And, as was true fifteen years ago, it remains important to reiterate that Come With Us isn’t a bad album, just that it doesn’t stand up as well as it could have were it not the one which was released after Dig Your Own Hole and Surrender. It’s still easy to overlook Come With Us when one thinks about the heights to which The Chemical Brothers ascended in the 1990s which is a shame. Equally unfortunate is the fact that this album would eventually prove to be the first in a series of slumps for the group; comparatively, while Come With Us has its problems, it still stands above Push The Button and We Are The Night for quality within the group’s catalogue.
(Freestyle Dust/ Astralwerks)