The Chemical Brothers have always been one of those groups who I've always sort of admired for doing their own thing. While they've alwasy sort of been lumped in with lots of other artists as a "big beat" group, they've always seemed to favor textures over plane beat-you-over-the-head sound, and have collaborated with lots of different artists (and even vocalists) to try to do something different than what everyone else is doing in the genre.
Like their other albums, Surrender starts out on a great note with the bleeps and bloops of "Musical Response" while a speak-and-spell voice provides the revolving sample. It's not entirely dancy, but it's a funky lead-in and shows the deft touch that made tracks like "Piku" on their Dig Your Own Hole so likeable. The second track "Influenced" stirs up things even a bit more with a huge throbbing beat and more fun sounds. On the third song, they enlist the help of New Orders Bernard Sumner and it makes for probably the best track on the album. "Out of Control" is a 7-minute masterpiece by the group that is in my opinion their best collaboration with a singer yet. While it's also probably the most standard in terms of song structure, it's also the most well-constructed. If New Order plans on doing any more music in their career, it might do them some good to listen to this track over and over.
Once again, the Brothers have collaborated with Noel Gallagher of Oasis for a track, and once again it just doesn't do that much for me. It's not that I don't like Gallagher (I own a couple Oasis discs), but the song (like their last duo "Setting Sun") just doesn't seem that inventive for the brothers. Things fortunately get back on track with the slowly building next song "Sunshine Underground." Another collaboration (this time with Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star) on "Asleep From Day" shows that one of their best talents is tracks with female vocals (like the amazing past tracks with Beth Orton). Unfortunately, the last couple tracks of the album kind of fizzle out a bit, including their first single "Hey Boy, Hey Girl" (which sounds strangely like Fatboy Slims "Right Here, Right Now" in structure).
In the end, I almost hate to say it, but I think that the groups best songs on this release are the ones with vocals (minus Mr. Gallaghers contribution). While I enjoy a "Block Rockin' Beat" once in awhile, the Brothers seem to do their most interesting work on the album when they're writing more standard songs than the big-beat stuff. I'm not sure I want them to completely leave the loud stuff behind, but I'll have to admit I'm curious as to what they'd do if they did.