Review: Hot Chip – One Life Stand

Boy, the difference between a first listen to a new album and subsequent listens can be pretty stark. Never more so than when discovering the newest from the UK’s Hot Chip. Their 2008 release Made in the Dark was just this side of revelatory with constantly unexpected bursts of energy, weird rhythms, lots of stop-start-explain what we’re doing now breaks. It was both fun and challenging at the same time. Their challenge to follow-up such an interesting piece of work was stiff.

Coming into this release the five piece sent up two songs, the brilliant title track,¬† the most infectious, fun, damn catchy single released thus far this year (okay we’re about four weeks into “this year” but still…) and the darker, unusual-for-this-band “Take It In” which has been compared to Depeche Mode which is nonsense but it is more bass-heavy, dark and gothy than we’ve ever heard Hot Chip and the one-two punch of these teasers made for great anticipation for the album to come.So how odd than on first listen One Life Stand seemed so dull, so repetitive so plodding. The promise of these first songs was nowhere to be found. And yet…and yet…

Reason number one why we don’t post reviews after a single listen – some have so many layers that they need to be experienced each in their turn, each savoured until their full potential becomes clear. As it turns out One Life Stand is such an album. One doesn;t necessarily think “deep” or complex” when they think of Hot Chip but perhaps they ought to. Many of these songs seem straightforward at first glance but the hidden synth lines or sequences, the odd vocal hiccups, the little bits and pieces bring so many interesting things to watch for it’s like a musical “Where’s Waldo?”

Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard trade vocals deftly, though it’s Taylor’s high-pitched contributions that are the more memorable, especially on awesome songs like the sprightly “Hand Me Down Your Love” and the terrific early 80s/Human League-esque “Thieves in the Night”. A nice surprise are the surprisingly lovely ballads, like “Keep Quiet” and “Slush” with its downright weird “humana humana” backing track that remind us that Hot Chip are more than just an innovative dance act. With clever, sometimes inspired electronics and fun, playful vocals they have brought us the first rock-solid electronic album of 2010.

Watch: One Life Stand

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