(Olympics 2012 flavoured!) Single Review: Chemical Brothers – Theme from Velodrome

By on Wednesday, 18th July 2012 at 12:00 pm

It seemed quite interesting to me that of six bands that have been tapped to have a hand in official Olympics tuneage, half of them are from Manchester: BBC Olympic theme writers Elbow, single-providing Delphic and the subject of this post, single providers Chemical Brothers. ‘Theme from Velodrome’ had its first play on Zane Lowe’s Radio1 nighttime show this past Monday and the single was then available for purchase from that point forward. A velodrome, if you were wondering, is not a made up word at all but actually the proper name for an indoor arena designed specifically for cycling events.

This is the first real release from Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons since 2010’s disappointing ‘Further’ album and their foray into film soundtracking for the Natalie Portman film Black Swan in the same year. Despite all the time that has passed, some longtime fan commenters on YouTube are already complaining in droves that the single is about as boring as wiry-framed men and women riding their wiry frames of metal with two wheels attached in a circle again and again: “‘Pain and tedious’ sums up cycling perfectly!?” writes Paul Whelan. Rowlands has been quoted by the Guardian as having said this about their participation: “I have loved cycling since I was a boy. I have always made a connection between electronic music and cycling repetition, the freedom and sense of movement. Kraftwerk obviously cemented this connection with their Tour de France track. For us to create the theme for the Velodrome is a great honour and we’re really excited to hear it in situ.” And indeed, a top comment by darthdevil reads “Kraftwerk mode on”. That leads to another Manchester reference: Kraftwerk played the Manchester Velodrome during the 2009 Manchester International Festival.

I have to say, I like this. It begins with strings and sounds a bit stuffy before a robotic voice intones the three syllables of the venue where this song will feature. Then the music ups in tempo and the melody (if you could say that) in the background goes frenetic. This has all happened before the 1 minute 30 second mark, when the backbeat finally worms its way into the song. For an electronic band, it’s relatively understated and does what it needs to do: build up anticipation for the main event(s). I even like the unusual fade out at the end; not what I would have expected, which is a plus.

While it’s a definite improvement on ‘Survival’, the official Olympics song written by Muse (watch that video here), it leaves the door somewhat open for the remaining two songs – contributions from Delphic and Dizzee Rascal follow in the next 2 weeks – to take the brass ring. Which song will be the most remembered from London 2012? We’ll have to see in the coming weeks.


‘Theme from Velodrome’, the Olympic contribution by the Chemical Brothers, is available as a single for purchase now.


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