CD Review of Divided by Night by Crystal Method
Crystal Method: Divided by Night
Recommended if you like
Chemical Brothers, Puretone, BT
Label
Tiny e
Crystal Method:
Divided by Night
  • Drum and Bass/Electronica/Club Dance
  • 2009
  • Buy the CD

Reviewed by Neil Carver

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T
he Crystal Method has been derided as a lesser American copy of the Chemical Brothers, but it could be argued that the Method has done more to define the big beat electronica sound in the larger public consciousness than their more critically acclaimed peers from across the pond. Electronica enthusiasts are known to be as snobby as jazz critics when it comes to proclaiming what is hip, now and good. It could be that the sheer accessibility of the Methods’ work will mean that they never get credit for their continually solid and engaging body of work. They certainly haven’t let it stand in the way of making their most pop-oriented album to date, Divided by Night.

With an established recipe for addictive, heavy grooves, the Method tend to stick with it, just tossing in a few new ingredients now and then, like a cook adding walnuts or toffee to a fan favorite chocolate chip cookie mix. They upped the rock elements on their sophomore release Tweekend, and did an even better job of bringing out a heavy metal edge with 2004’s Legion of Boom. John Garcia beats Tom Morello in the howl department any day. Adapting to their multitude of collaborators has been a strong point on every track Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland have ever laid down. They know when to wear the producer hat over that of the musician… and they never forget that, despite the druggy superiority of many fans of music that grew of the Detroit techno scene, this is pop music at its heart and always will be.

Divided by Night just takes the many influences of the last 20 years and runs off to have some fun. The grind, slow beat of the lead off title track gives way immediately to the upbeat "Dirty Thirty" that, instead of building off of samples of classic "Blue Monday"-era New Order, features Peter Hook playing his famously affected bass in an unabashed hearkening back to when dance clubs had "alternative nights" in the ‘80s. The album is framed around this classic influence, with another Peter Hook track second from the end. "Blunts and Robots" perfectly bookends the collection on the back end. A wistful Bernard Sumner vocal wouldn’t have been out of place on either track.

Matisyahu’s Hasidic hip-hop reggae might seem like an abrupt detour on track three, but it works to ground the record in more modern elements without jarring the listener. It flows perfectly into "Kling to the Wreckage," which features house music cult figure Justin Warfield doing his best post-punk Tom Smith-esque vocal. If any track bridges the metallic essence of Legion of Boom with their latest work, it is "Kling…"

The album does have its weak spots. "Sine Language," featuring LMFAO, is undone by the repetitive and insipid lyrics. "You’re a Pac-man bitch on an old Atari / I’m Grand Theft Auto with a hot Ferrari" is mildy humorous once, but after the 10th time, it’s easy to remember that electronic rapping about pop culture icons was done first and better 20 years earlier by Pop Will Eat Itself and the classic "Can U Dig It?" This is no idle comparison, because PWEI is clearly riffed on the following track "Double Down Under." Emily Haines and Jason Lytle contribute the most straight-up, ‘90s style dance pop, and these tracks can easily be relegated to background music – but will likely appear in some Tae-Bo instructor’s workout routine.

Still, the album closes with style. "Black Rainbows" is the most ambient track and uses Stephanie King Warfield’s vocals to transform it to a solid indie pop song that should get picked up by late night college DJs, if any still exist. Then the aforementioned "Blunts and Robots" takes us into the final track, an honest-to-god love song that is dark, sweet, and voiced by "Grey’s Anatomy" soundtrack alum Meiko.

In an odd way, the Crystal Method live up to the countless charges that they just rehash the most popular sounds of the time. Their ode to the surge of indie pop rock over the past decade is part of this, but there is something endearing and entertaining about this steadfast trait. The Method know what they do, and they do it well, damn the critics in the process. They may not be leading the way, but they remain current, and Divided by Night is well worth multiple listens, even if only at the gym.

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