Album Review: Hot Chip – One Life Stand

By on Tuesday, 12th January 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

If one were to make a list of essential Noughties’s dance tracks, a tune that would undoubtedly spring to mind would be ‘Over and Over’ by Hot Chip. But now is not the time to be nostalgic. This is 2010 – a new decade, and with it comes a brand spanking new album from the electropop band that got everyone ‘Ready for the Floor’. In the mid-Noughties, dance tracks were the last thing I was looking for; I was hunting for the next big rock group, listening to the debut album of some band called the Killers for more insight. But who would have guessed that in just a few years’ time the music landscape would change so much. We now have the likes of Lady Gaga, Delphic, La Roux, and countless others in the synth-driven onslaught of the dance scene all fighting for the attention of clubgoers, as well as the return of older acts like Pet Shop Boys coming back into the fold. So is Hot Chip still the pioneering force it once was? From my first impression of ‘One Life Stand’ this is unclear but for sure, their latest is for the most part a good ride.

As we are in the midst of a very snowy winter both on the East Coast of America and in much of Britain, I’ve decided that the album is the musical equivalent of a downhill skiing course. Thanks to the ski lift, you’ve arrived at the top. You stand there in your skiing kit and gaze down at the majesty that awaits you, flush with anticipation, ready to get started down that hill. Track 1, ‘Thieves in the Night’, is a promising start, with the lilting refrain of “happiness is all that we want.” These are exactly the kind of words you want to hear in a club, when you’ve already become drunk by the multi-coloured spectacle that is a good dance scene. (Well, at least I do.) The song feels so disco, it could have been written for Donna Summer. Indeed, throughout the album you are left wondering why Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor aren’t tapped by other artists more often for their songwriting skills.

With its Motown-inflected piano and drumming effects, ‘Hand Me Down Your Love’ is next, the unexpected turn that you negotiate as you make your way downhill. You can almost hear Annie Lennox or Aretha Franklin laying down the vocals in some future reinterpretation of the soulful lyrics. It’s good but it isn’t particularly exciting and can feel a bit monotonous. Incidentally, it should be noted here that every song on the album clocks in at over 4 minutes and as a result, each feels drawn out with the danger of losing its punch.

The minor synths of ‘I Feel Better’ pick things back up a bit, adding a bit of drama. It’s the icy chill that grazes your face, invigorating you and making you wonder what’s coming next. Hot Chip has called this “a big commercial song that came out of nowhere”. When the album drops next month, I’m curious if any of you reading his agree with this assessment. We pick up some speed on the title track ‘One Life Stand’, a tune I absolutely adore. The first time I heard the single on BBC 6music, I could have sworn the words in the chorus were “I only want to be your one night stand.” I wanted to scream, “what? My brothers Hot Chip, that doesn’t make any sense to a girl at all!” Upon repeated listenings I realised it was actually “I only want to be your one life stand / tell me do you stand by your whole man?” The song itself may not be particularly innovative, but with lyrics like “moments that keep us guessing / and lead us from temptation / but better to embrace them / and measure our relation” – wow. Who really needs innovation if you’re got a killer dance tune about love?

The three middle tracks – ‘Brothers’, ‘Slush’, and ‘Alley Cats’ – are anticlimactic, feeling like a particularly drab, flat patch of snow on the trail. ‘Brothers’ sounds too Alan Parsons Project, and the other two could have been mistaken as songs from Miike Snow (and if I want to hear Miike Snow, I’ll cue up their record, not this one). Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate their attempt at breaking up what might have become a continuous stream of dance songs (nothing wrong with that). But by this time even some hardcore Hot Chip fans will have skipped over to the last third of the album, unless you happen to be someone who has taken a shine to ‘Alley Cats’ because the band has been playing it on tour the last 2 years or ‘In the Privacy of Our Love’ is your favourite Hot Chip track, ever.

Thankfully, ‘We Have Love’ and ‘Take It In’ to rescue the album from the drabness, getting the blood pumping through your veins again as you head for the finish line. I’ve found that most albums soar to magnificent heights when I’m given the opportunity to absorb the songs head-on live. Perhaps when Hot Chip tours this year in support of the new album, these new songs will be heard and appreciated in a completely different light. I’m looking forward to finding out when Hot Chip plays a handful of dates across America in April.

6/10

Hot Chip’s fourth album ‘One Life Stand’ will be released in regular CD and expanded CD+DVD formats in the UK on 1 February and in America on 9 February. The band will be on tour in the UK in February.

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2 Responses

[…] Chip’s latest album, ‘One Life Stand.’ Check out Mary’s review of the album here. AKPC_IDS += "12074,"; […]

[…] if the clunkers on ‘One Life Stand’ would stand up to live performance (read my review here). While I’m still not wild about some tracks off the new album, the overall exhilaration […]

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