Chemical Brothers/Fatboy Slim | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Chemical Brothers/Fatboy Slim


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If the Chemical Brothers hadn't hit on their patented combination of rawk guitar and crash-and-pound hip-hop-derived big beats, someone else would've. But even though the sound was a sure thing waiting to happen, the Brothers have damn near perfected it--and I'm not talking about the monumentally overrated "Block Rockin' Beats," either. Their finest moments seem calculated to puzzle pop audiences: the gargantuan acid-riffing "Three Little Birdies Down Beats" from Exit Planet Dust, for instance, or the subwoofer crusher a-go-go "It Doesn't Matter" from Dig Your Own Hole. The new Surrender (Astralwerks) is neither as consistent nor as consistently up as either previous LP, but there are improvements in certain areas. For one thing, the duo has learned how to use vocalists: Noel Gallagher unleashes an undeniable melody on "Let Forever Be," and on the disc's best song, "Out of Control," Bernard Sumner gives his most affecting vocal performance since New Order's 1981 masterpiece, "Temptation." Live, the Chemical Brothers are louder than God, and I've never seen a secular crowd get more ecstatic than their fans. Precious few acts can compete with that, but the coheadliner is definitely one of them. I'll be blunt: Fatboy Slim is the best fucking DJ in the world. The Skint and Astralwerks labels have posted downloadable live sets on their Web sites; anybody with the right software can now hear how his flawless mixing enhances his fearless song selection (he flaunts big hits, rather than being cowed by "underground" orthodoxy) and how he leaps from one peak to another without a single lull or desperate gimmick. Last year's On the Floor at the Boutique: Mixed by Fatboy Slim (Skint) ranks not only as the best DJ-mix CD I've ever heard but as one of my two or three favorite albums of the decade. It's the dance-floor ride of a lifetime--from the Incredible Bongo Band's immortal b-boy anthem "Apache" to the Jungle Brothers' buoyant "Because I Got It Like That" to instant Fatboy classics like "Michael Jackson" and "The Rockafeller Skank"--but Slim's skills are such that this performance will be astonishing even if he doesn't repeat a single move. Monday, 8:30 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence; 312-666-6667 or 312-559-1212. MICHAELANGELO MATOS

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Richard Weedon/Gavin Wilson.

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