Fans of Hot Chip will know that they’re oddly unpredictable – one minute they’re making odd geek-pop on “Coming On Strong”, next they’re dancefloor fillers with “The Warning”, next time they’re getting into the charts thanks to the oddly disjointed “Made In The Dark”. Now with their fourth album “One Life Stand”, they’re getting cohesive. Yep, that’s right. The lads have actually managed to pull all their ideas together into a new LP that doesn’t swing wildly from one feel to another. Now it’s just up to us to decide if that’s a good thing or not.
Now it might just be me, or are Hot Chip better when they’re being lovelorn in a weird, geeky kind of way? Isn’t it just better when they’re noodling on “Boy From School” and telling the love story between Batman and the Joker on “Ready For the Floor”? Well we still have moments of that here, most notably on the title track which is awash with steel drums, soaring synths and voice-altering technology. Alexis Taylor’s semi-wimpy voice lends itself well to the tender moments, and also to the geekier moments like here: weirdly, listening to the lyrics the head-scratching question “Did he write this for his wife or for his bandmate Joe Goddard?” appears in your brain. And it’s this kind of strange mystery that should make Hot Chip great.
“We Have Love” is perhaps the most dancefloor-friendy track on the album, once again mixing the oddly tender with the heavy synth sounds with great effect – it’s one of the finest points of the album. “Hand Me Down Your Love” is also a great moment with urgent drums and piano morphing magically into majestically airy, heartbroken synths. But hey, would we really expect anything less from the Chipsters?
But it’s just too bad that there aren’t more of these great moments – ideally you would have liked their most cohesive album to date to be more like the electro-stomps of “Made In The Dark”, or better yet, “The Warning”. Instead Hot Chip seem to have invested more time in making slushy ballads, even naming one of the sickliest tracks on the album “Slush”. Had this track been maybe, oh, I don’t know, three minutes shorter than its 6-minute running time then maybe it would have been more acceptable. Had those steel drums come in earlier in the track, it might have been more interesting. But no, it’s dragged out to oblivion. Eek. Another track, “Brothers”, does actually have the “One Life Stand” dilemma – is it about blood brothers or band brothers? It doesn’t really matter. Admittedly this track exposes the biggest improvement that Hot Chip have made to their sound on this album – the more fluid combination of Alexis Taylor’s geeky vocals with Joe Goddard’s deep voice – but this does not save it from going into an odd mire of slushy dirge.
Now don’t get me wrong here – there are real moments to treasure on this album and it shows some of what a more fluid, less tense Hot Chip could do in the future, but its danceable, fun moments on one half of the album are overshadowed by the over-long ballads that take up the other half. We all knew they could be a little sentimental but come on, we want more dancefloor fillers, please!