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Hot Chip
One Life Stand Hazel Sheffield , February 3rd, 2010 07:19

There's a problem with pigeonholing yourself as that-kooky-electropop-band, namely, longevity. Wirey specs and monkeys with miniature cymbals might have propelled Hot Chip to electropop ubiquity in 2006 with the Mercury-nominated The Warning, but by 2008's Made In The Dark they were facing criticism for being overdone and eclectic to the point of removed.

No surprise, then, that the London five-piece answer the critics this month with their shortest album yet, an offering so resolutely thematic that its ten songs stick together like used Kleenex. Hot Chip have finally found consistency, even if it took one of them one hell of a break up to do it.

Title track 'One Life Stand' sets the tone with ominous bass and snappy high-hat. Its message, like so much of this album, is soppy, but its component parts are still sharper than stilettos on the dancefloor, where so many of these tracks are surely bound. There's nothing so joyously spurious as 'Ready For The Floor' here, but the weightier songs still ring with the absurd jauntiness of Hot Chip's very own subgenre of electropop.

Opener 'Thieves In The Night' marries a throw-away guitar solo with chattering synths, while 'We Have Love' threads the circular throb of bass with those hard, drum-machine beats. 'I Feel Better' loops a string orchestra behind autotuned vocals, breaking out into steel drums at the half-way point. This is ambitious stuff, realised by Hot Chip's are mastery of their computer craft. Theirs is a modern-day disco: music that belongs in nodding heads and dancing feet, even in quieter moments.

And there are plenty of those too. Lest not ye forget that Hot Chip always enjoyed the odd ballad; and this time round, when the tempo drops, the sentimental subject matter is more direct than ever before. Alexis Taylor's distinctive falsetto is weirdly sincere, no longer content in being the robotic vocal equivalent of his bandmates' mixing. 'Slush' lives up to its cringing title, a knowing piano waltz that wades into thoughtful brass chords after Taylor's imploring "what is the answer? What is the question? What were you thinking?" Joe Goddard's complementary growl anchors the vocals, addressing siblings and comrades in 'Brothers' and providing counterpoint to Alexis's appropriately feline whine in 'Alleycats'. The latter, the slowest burner, is Hot Chip at its very best - moving in all its parts but concentrated on an isolated feeling, perfectly arranged, a finished pop song.

Self-consciousness once marred this band - they seemed too try-hard, too deliberate to be more than a fad. One Life Stand sees them change tak for a new kind of introspection. Now they capitalise on the black humour and hysteria inherent the misery of a break-up, one that, for all its obvious trauma, has brought Hot Chip back down to the dancefloor with a bang.