Hot Chip: “One Life Stand”

Just had a quick read of the blog on Hot Chip’s “Made In The Dark”, to make sure I don’t repeat too many points on this one about “One Life Stand”; endless stuff about the paralysing insidiousness of many of their songs, and so on.

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Just had a quick read of the blog on Hot Chip’s “Made In The Dark”, to make sure I don’t repeat too many points on this one about “One Life Stand”; endless stuff about the paralysing insidiousness of many of their songs, and so on.

It did remind me, though, of how little I’ve actually played that album in the interim – maybe the most accurate thing in there is the line, “I must admit that, right now, this grittier strategy isn’t working for me quite as well as the softer touch of ‘The Warning’.” And it served to show up the differences between “Made In The Dark” and this immediately terrific follow-up.

Where Hot Chip’s third album often sought to be a bit rougher, less cute, “One Life Stand” is generally clean, sleek and poignant even at its most exhilarating. The self-conscious quirks now seem to have matured into mellower English eccentricities, but the cosmopolitan understanding of dance music has never been stronger, from the elegantly pounding “Thieves In The Night” onwards.

“Thieves In The Night” also serves as a useful reminder of how different Hot Chip are from the flurry of electro revivalists who’ve emerged, often quite successfully, in the past year or so. Unlike most of those artists, Hot Chip could never have existed in, say, 1984: this is music that’s fundamentally rooted in the evolving techno and house music of the past two decades.

Listening to “I Feel Better”, mind, it might just have existed in 1988, since its string stabs make it a dead ringer for Kevin Saunderson/Inner City’s “Good Life”, albeit a sage and austere version of “Good Life”, with some very 21st Century mucking about on Autotune on Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard’s vocals.

Along with “Hand Me Down Your Love”, “Thieves In The Night” and “I Feel Better” make for a memorably superb opening sequence to “One Life Stand”, climaxing in the title track. Perhaps the strongest Hot Chip track since “Over And Over”, it’s a masterclass in the band’s key skills: meticulous, pulsating contemporary dance music, with a vulnerable and catchy gem of a song at its core. This one appears to be a touching paean to monogamy from Taylor, features the odd ripple of steel drums (a recurrent detail on the album) and some strenuous beats from Charles Hayward of This Heat. As the chorus hoves into view for the first time, there’s a superb melodic swerve, prompted by a ghostly, repeated Goddard call of “Keep on” and some stringy, Chic-style rhythm guitar. Great song.

The middle of the album (a tighter and more economic package than “Made In The Dark”) is gradually mellower, with the self-explanatory “Slush” at its core. Initially, Taylor’s Sunday School hymnal seems a little too wet, but there’s an epiphany towards the end, when the steel drums move the song into a hazy, revelatory coda that just conceivably points up the band’s affinity with Robert Wyatt (if memory serves, Taylor wrote the press biog for Domino that accompanied “Comicopera”).

A certain noble profligacy with great tunes recurs again and again: “Alleycat” starts nicely enough, before eventually switching to a gorgeous immersive melodic battle between Goddard and Taylor. And the classy musical touches are just as pronounced: the tenderly pumping “We Have Love”, minus vocals, could conceivably sit on one of Kompakt’s “Pop Ambient” comps, perhaps.

As “Take It In” keeps yet another gorgeous vocal melody cycling round and round, the thought even occurs that this might be Hot Chip’s best album. See if we’re still playing this one in two years, I suppose.


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