Ready for the floor?

The most beguiling song on Hot Chip’s One Life Stand is “Brothers,” a ballad in which Alexis Taylor or Joe Goddard, I still can’t tell them apart, commemorates playing X-box and enjoying the company of a sibling or an intimate male friend. Stacked harmonies and thick synthesized chords create unexpected suspense; you keep expecting a revelation. When it doesn’t come, the chorus verse “It’s a wild love that I have for my brother” carries the weight. My second favorite track is more typical: “Take It In,” the best New Order rip in recent years, superior even to “Crystal,” New Order’s own excellent bit of self-plagiarism, maybe because Hot Chip have stolen from the second side of Brotherhood, which is still overlooked terrain for fans. I want to add “Alleycats,” another ballad, this time anchored by electric piano chords and plucked guitar, in which Taylor and Goddard extend a metaphor until they run out of melody (maybe they could have lifted Hall & Oates’ excellent obscurity “Alley Katz”).

My preferences should indicate how I feel about One Life Stand. As Hot Chip develop their songwriting chops and find new crinkles in their singing and how they arrange trad instruments around programmed percussion, they’re stepping away from the knotted electro-funk on which they made their name. There’s a listlessness here to the dance numbers, even on opener “Thieves in the Night”; it’s like they’re waiting for the right deejays to reanimate them. The title track takes more than a full minute to get going; filigrees like steel drum samples sound perfunctory, a distraction from the blah melody. On numbers like “Hand Me Down Your Love” they retreat into the tweeness of Ready For the Floor‘s “Wrestlers.” One Night Stand is the kind of transitional album you can’t hold against the band though. If it’s as uneven as its predecessor, I’d point the finger at the incongruent, perhaps irreconcilable nature of Hot Chip itself: two smart guys whose bedsit-indie roots are finally clashing with the vision of bodies dancing in their heads. If The Warning still seems like their one near-flawless attempt at mediation (it took months to warm to it), at least they recognize that mediation gets boring.

4 thoughts on “Ready for the floor?

  1. Goddard is definitely the lispy basso, who I will forever love (as a similarly sized man) for having a t-shirt that says “EXTENDED REMIX” on it the first time I saw them live. I need that shirt.

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