Hot Chip - One Life Stand
So here we are, one of 2010’s most anticipated releases…but can Putney’s favourite geeky dance-pop musos deliver the classic (and possibly career defining) album many are expecting?
Things get off to a strong start with opener ‘Thieves In The Night’. It’s all broody synth organ drones and a four-on-the-floor kick drum, which builds anticipation and excitement, as any album opener worth it’s salt should. Alexis Taylor’s instantly recognisable falsetto finally gets things going: “My friend once told me something so right, he said to be careful of thieves in the night.”
From here on, the track seems to be on an ever-upward pursuit for bliss and abandon, with layers of synths, beats and guitars being added on top of one another in a clever marriage of words and music, “happiness is what we all want.” Lovely stuff.
Next up is the piano led demi-ballad, ‘Hand Me Down Your Love’, which stands out as one of the record’s more instant tunes. In what seems like an attempt to remain “human” and “honest”, the band have opted for a distinctly acoustic drum kit sound in the intro and verses. It’s not what you’d expect from a Hot Chip song, but then again surprising listener’s is one of the things they do best.
Pretty string lines and delicious rising melodies ensure that it won’t be long before Erol Alkan decides he wants to sinks his dirty electro teeth into this one, as there is a filthy floor filling monster hiding just below the surface.
* “Don’t give a shit about the cool kids”
It’s no surprise that the album takes its name from the first single to be released from the album. ‘One Life Stand’ is an instant Hot Chip classic. It’s irreverent, completely mad and is filled with a seemingly bottomless pit of hooks.
The choreography on the video sums up Hot Chips’ “don’t give a shit about the cool kids” approach to their music and image, which has garnered the band such a devoted fan base. What’s a shame is that this sense of fun doesn’t appear elsewhere on the album. A few more tracks like this, rather than the insipid ‘Slush’ or ‘Brothers’ and One Life Stand would be the first must have of the decade, rather than just the very decent album that it is.
Other highlights include ‘Alley Cats’ and ‘We Have Love’. The first is more of an entity than a song and is quite simply one of the loveliest, most understated, tracks Hot Chip have written to date. It drifts in and out of focus like a sunshine drenched winter weekend morning and contains one of the album’s rare moments of Alexis Taylor’s and Joe Goddard’s beautifully idealised duel vocals.
‘We Have Love’ will certainly be featuring in several DJ’s set lists in 2010. It’s subtle dance hall and dub step ingredients are fused seamlessly with Hot Chip’s uncanny ability to produce dark, obscure mantras, which demand to be played time and time again.
* “How come they don’t just play like that cool part through the whole song?”
Taylor and Goddard have clearly decided to save one of the biggest choruses they band have ever summoned for the album’s closer ‘Take It In’. The song employs a familiar song-writing trick of minor key verses and major key choruses, which reminded me of a scene from Beavis and Butthead where they discuss Radiohead’s ‘Creep’:
Beavis: “What’s going on? How come they don’t just play like that cool part through the whole song?”
Butthead: “Well Beavis, if they didn’t have like a part of the song that sucked, then it’s like, the other part wouldn’t be as cool.”
To say that about ‘Take It In’ is a little harsh, but you get the idea. The minimally melodic verses become more attractive with repeated listening and act as a perfect counterweight to the gorgeous falsetto chorus: “My heart has flown to you just like a dove, it can fly, it can fly. Please take my heart and keep it close to you, take it in, take it in.”
The album still has room for Amnesiac era Radiohead in the minimalist electronica of ‘Keep Quiet’ and an attempt at a 90s dance pop revival in ‘I Feel Better’. I used to live next door to a halfway house for young offenders and elements of this track certainly come from the same ‘Dance Anthems’ stock, which used to haunt me during the delinquents’ all-too-frequent all nighters. That said, ‘I Feel Better’ isn’t unpleasant, but as with a few moments on the album I can’t help but feel that it doesn’t quite reach it’s potential.
So back to the key question, is the album any good? It’s certainly a strong addition to the Hot Chip oeuvre and a must for any fan however, I would still recommend 2006’s The Warning to any newcomers. Key tracks ‘One Life Stand’, ‘Hand Me Down Your Love’, ‘Alley Cats’ and ‘Take It In’ are undoubtedly great Hot Chip songs, but they don’t quite reach the dizzying heights of ‘Over And Over’, ‘Boy From School’ or ‘Ready For The Floor’.
Perhaps Hot Chip are just too eclectic and experimental a band to write an album that will be widely regarded as a classic. It’s unlikely they will ever write a record that will be universally viewed as a cohesive ‘whole’. But perhaps that’s not the point. Their inventive and often risky approach to song writing means that not every attempt works as well as it might, but this is precisely why they are admired as one of the most unique bands of the past decade.
So anyway, dance your nuts off to ‘One Life Stand’, find your heart swept away by ‘Alley Cats’ and ‘Take It In’, play ‘spot the steel drum Leitmotif’ that runs throughout and prepare yourself for the brilliant remixes to follow. This might not be a ‘classic’, but don’t be too surprised if it ends up on a few top ten lists at the end of the year, after all how many bands are capable of sounding completely out of place and in perfect harmony with their surroundings at the same time?