THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS with PAUL OAKENFOLD and DJ JAMES HOLYROYD at the Hershey Centre (5500 Rose Cherry Place, Mississauga), Friday (April 19). $41-$47. 416-870-8000.
it is absurd that in 2002 the Chemical Brothers would be forced to defend their relevancy to club music. No group has been more responsible for taking electronic dance-floor music out of the clubs and into the mainstream pop world than the Manchester duo of Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands.
The Chemicals have sold more than 8 million albums worldwide and seen tracks like the Noel Gallagher-sung Setting Sun both decimate dance floors and become pop hits.
Their raucous new Come With Us CD has received a decidedly tepid reception, but even more troubling are the accusations being levelled at Simons and Rowlands themselves.
The UK dance press that discovered them is now telling the duo that they're too old to be making this music, out of touch with the club community and too popular to be part of what many still consider an underground movement.
"I can't really deal with it," a clearly shaken Ed Simons responds from his London home. "Fuck, we're in our early 30s. We're hardly old. This isn't music that needs to be made by teenagers, and the singles from this album have been some of our biggest club records ever.
"Maybe people expect us to keep up with trends. The whole point and freedom of dance music, at least originally, was to do what you want. We don't have to make 2-step records because everyone else is. The place where we got into dance music, the Hacienda, was a really broad church of dance music. There was hip-house, northern industrial dance music and Chicago jacking house. All of that co-existed, and that's where we're at when we make our music."
It sounds obvious, but what the Chemical Brothers do best is make records that sound like themselves. In the 10-plus years that the group has been slamming together their big beats, they've carved out their own instantly recognizable trademark sound, one built around thundering drums and anthemic, pop-oriented breaks that work best at a sternum-rattling volume.
It's such a defining sound that were the Chemicals to blatantly make a UK garage record just to fit in, it simply wouldn't work.
"I'm very proud of that sound," Simons agrees. "We're not dilettantes who sit at our computer and try to ape what's going on. We've always been doing our own thing, and hopefully people on the dance floor will appreciate that.
"Yeah, we've sold millions of records, but you can't judge us by that. You can only judge us by what happens when your piece of vinyl is put on the turntable. To say that this isn't a club record is madness, and really maddening. The people who've said these things are fucking lunatics."
Of course, had the Chemicals' long-fancied collaboration with Bob Dylan actually come off, the duo's reputation as two geezers making old-school electronic music might have been sealed.
It didn't, but the Chemicals aren't out of the running just yet.
"We're massive Bob Dylan fans, and we just fancifully thought of him singing on one of our tracks," Simons laughs. "Someone from our record company got in touch with one of his people, and we got word back that he wanted a formal letter explaining what exactly we were up to and what we wanted from him.
"We never quite got to the letter-writing stage. Music we're good at. Letter writing, I'm not so sure."