EMF – THE BEAUTY AND THE CHAOS – Review

Hello EMF, what's new?

Label: EMF Records

Genre: Funk / Pop / Rock

Release Date: January 26th 2024

Members: 

James Atkin – vocals

Ian Dench – guitar

Derry Brownson – keys \ samples

Stevey Marsh – bass

Adrian Todd – drums

Track Listing:

Hello People 3:48
Reach For The Lasers 3:21
21st Century 3:55
Read The Room 3:19
I’ve Been Down 3:29
The Day The Music Died 4:12
Stardust 3:54
Lookout Mountain 3:36
Red Flags 3:10
Do It Again 5:14
Hello People ft Stephen Fry Facts vs Fear (Bonus) 4:09
I’m A Believer 2023 (Bonus) 4:29

When EMF reunited in 2007 it was assumed that they’d simply hit the festival circuit and keep it at that. They have been steadily doing festivals and live shows in the years since 2007 much to the delight of long term fans like myself. But it was in 2020, when the band released a career-spanning vinyl box set that we were reminded just how good their music sounds on LP and when combined with most of 2020 and 2021 celebrating 30 years of EMF with live shows, we got the sense that something magical was about to happen.

That magic occurred when the band surprised fans by telling them that profits from the merchandise sold was being used to record a new album. ‘Go Go Sapiens’ was released in 2022 and confirmed a couple of key things for us. Firstly, the new material was definitely ‘EMF’, the sound that the fans grew up with and wanted more of and also just how well it sat amongst the classics when the new songs were performed live. Given this was their first album of all new material since 1995, it could have gone either way and thankfully it firmly headed in the right direction.

Our review of Go Go Sapiens is here: 

The feedback, sales and live reception has more than proven to the band that there is enough interest out there to keep going and 2024 now sees the second album of new material from them in a little over 12 months. Better than the 27 years wait for ‘Go Go Sapiens’ eh? 

So then, what of ‘The Beauty and the Chaos’? Is this a rushed release to capitalise on the hype of the band returning or is it in fact dear friends, the output we were hoping for after the tentative return with ‘Go Go Sapiens’? Read on… 

The Beauty and the Chaos

Lead single and a 2023 contender for the Xmas Number 1 in the UK, ‘Hello People’ tackles the debate about migrants head on with a heartwarming song pointing out that we grow as a nation if we just stop and welcome people wanting to move here with nothing more complicated than saying “hello” and finding out a little bit about them. The fear and panic, caused by the mainstream media is addressed to show that a little bit of compassion goes a long way. So, if the messaging is good, what of the music? Well, production comes this time around with some added support from Ralf Jezzard, who, if you cast your minds back a way, was in the chair for both ‘Schubert Dip’ and ‘Stigma’. As such, ‘Hello People’ has a definite ‘Children’ vibe to it and I for one am overjoyed. Bouncing around the room like it’s 1991-92 all over again and feeling great for it as well. This was a band that got me through University and music like ‘Hello People’ just strips away the years. 

‘Reach For The Lasers’ follows and is the first litmus paper test to make sure the opening track wasn’t a brief trip down memory lane. Thankfully everything that I’d critiqued on the ‘Go Go Sapiens’ comeback album, guitars too low in the mix, not enough grit to the songs, has been addressed and then some. ‘Reach For The Lasers’ punches past the naysayers and, along with ’21st Century’ really affirms the band’s return to the mainstream. 

‘Read the Room’ adds depth with some gorgeous backing vocals courtesy of Awsa Bergstrom and before we know it, we’re at the end of Side 1. Although I’ve got the album including the bonus tracks digitally, I’m reviewing based on the vinyl which brings to the table ten tracks, excluding the two bonus items shown above. If, like me, you purchased the CD Single of ‘Hello People’ then you already have the bonus tracks as well as an extra mix of the Stephen Fry version as well. Never let it be said that the band who pretty much revolutionised the whole concept of remixes, extended mixes and alternative mixes in the 1990s don’t continue to give us value for money. 

5 for 5 then. Side one of the album doesn’t let up one iota and raises a couple of questions about Side 2. Have we just blown our wad in the first half or do we have something in the tank to keep it all moving for 5 more tracks? 

Opening with ‘The Day The Music Died’, it all bodes very well indeed. The bridge leading into the chorus is an absolute cha-cha-choon. It’s followed by ‘Stardust’ with its deep thought provoking lyrics about how we are “stardust lost in the cosmos, we’ve been out here way too long, we’re just part of the beauty and the chaos, trying to find where we belong“. Never a truer phrase stated in this day and age. We truly are adrift, surrounded by (sadly) beauty and chaos in equal measure. Dammit lads, I’m supposed to be dancing around the room with my glow-sticks…. stop making me think about stuff will you! 

‘Lookout Mountain’ goes a little bit Pink Floyd on us at times, especially when Awsa’s stunning vocal work is added in the closing section during the call to “Come Join The Future”. 3 for 3 so far on Side 2 as well, we’re doing rather well here it has to be said. 

Then we get to the album closers, ‘Red Flags’ and ‘Do It Again’. I’m sure the lyrics are coming from the heart and the head here as James sings about what I can only assume are real life experiences, spirals, recognition of where things can and have gone wrong and how experience teaches you to look for the signs in the future. The lyrics on the closing track, 

We were raving in a field, 50,000 strong

And nothing there was real

And that’s when it all went wrong

I dropped out just to turn my lover on

When I woke up I discovered she was gone…” 

… talk about being at the greatest party on earth but also looking back and recognising that under the influence you actually miss the good stuff completely, the reason you were there, you lose your real friends and pick up hangers on, everyone does it, everyone regrets it, and then rinse and repeat. Not the poignant, thoughtful, realisation of an end to an album I was expecting but nonetheless, whilst the music maintains that Pink Floyd-esque vibes, again courtesy of Awsa, both this and ‘Red Flags’ shows a level of maturity coming from the writing of James and Ian. Something we wouldn’t have seen necessarily 30 years ago. 

The album, when listening on vinyl is a clever split. Side 1 definitely has all of the energetic bangers back to back and that first 15-20 minutes simply flies by in a haze. Side 2 is a little more cerebral and all the better for it. The energy and vibe is still there but lyrically there are some sombering moments (albeit wrapped up in high energy funk-tastic choonage) and if you put the effort in to listening to the words instead of just getting munted and bouncing around the room then this is a perfect start to 2024 from a band whose return is more than welcome. 

Get on this … and go and see the band live this January and February around the UK. Details below: 

Score: 9/10 

Reviewed by: Adrian Hextall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour Dates & Tickets

https://emf-theband.com/shows

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