first impressions: hot chip – one life stand

*this first impression comes courtesy of the band in question, who are currently streaming the album in its entirety on their myspace.

on their breakthrough sophomore album the warning, hot chip became defined by two signature singles: the ferocious, party-starting “fuck you” to naysayers that was “over and over” and the tender disco ballad “and i was a boy from school.” both singles are stellar in their own way, and i’m willing to bet no hot chip fan likes the two equally. the band tried to cater to fans of the former on 2008’s made in the dark, which gave us the similarly mischievous “shake a fist” and “ready for the floor” among others. however, these numbers seemed to exist in direct dichotomy to softer moments like the title track and the sinead-baiting “in the privacy of our love.” the different numbers were quite good individually but failed to really gel into a solid whole like the warning‘s songs did. perhaps as a result of that, alexis, joe and the gang swing the other way with one life stand, which will certainly appeal more to fans of their “school” days. yes, they seem to really want to give us laid back this time around. however, it now comes at the cost of the floor-filling pop numbers of their last two efforts.

more notes after the jump…

couple of things upon initial listens:

  • the album kicks off with the best opening track of hot chip’s career. “thieves in the knight” packs a propulsive punch with synth and guitar lines that reminds me more than a little of moroder-era sparks. meanwhile, the wistful lyrics successfully convey the tone of the whole album in one fell swoop (“happiness is what we all want”)
  • the band makes good use of strings on this album, lending “hand me down your love” and “i feel better” a certain epic melancholy that i really enjoy
  • speaking of “i feel better,” easy pick for the next single, and arguably a better choice than the title track was, managing to ape “la isla bonita” and incorporate auto-tune to surprisingly awesome effect.
  • these guys still can’t seem to successfully sequence an album. whereas made in the dark faded softly into the night with a cluster of momentum killing slow-dances, this one stashes the same kind of cluster right in the middle of the album, immediately halting the excellent pace of the first half. it also places an unfair stigma on the soulful “alley cats” which would have become an easy album highlight with more careful placement.
  • “we have love” is a wacky jam that would have been right at home on the last album but feels a little out of place here.
  • i actually don’t mind “keep quiet” as a lot of people seem to. have to get their prince jones in there somewhere, and its a fitting nod to their early work.

being a “boy from school” fan myself, i tend to instantly lean towards this outing more than dark. that could easily change but while nothing stands out as loudly and clearly this time, the whole sounds like more than the sum of its parts. nevertheless, i still feel like hot chip have yet to really make the warning-worthy masterpiece that their frequent moments of brilliance since then seem to hint at. while still incredibly enjoyable, one has to wonder four albums in if they’ll ever get there again.

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