Under Review: Hot Chip – One Life Stand

On their last two albums, Hot Chip balanced the seemingly disparate characters of cold mechanics and sensual humanity.  Part of what made The Warning and Made In The Dark so effective was that they, at first, came off as kooky dance records before completely turning around and exposing a heart in their second acts.  It was the classic melding of Yin and Yang, and, while the slow tracks were never met with that much love in live settings, the band always showed their skill in embodying this dichotomy.  The first sign that One Life Stand was unlikely to live up to its predecessors was the pair of pre-release tracks.  The closing number, “Take It In” and the title track, while certainly sounding like quality Hot Chip, lacked the explosiveness of previous singles like “Over & Over” and “Shake A Fist.”  On One Life Stand, Hot Chip try to downsize their output by combining their dance sensibilities and their R&B fixation.  The result is a rather bland middle ground that neither kicks nor endears.  Opening with one of the set’s longest songs, “Thieves In The Night,” Alexis Taylor’s signature plaintive tenor guides a strong melody that never really takes off.  Only a few minutes later, “I Feel Better” processes Joe Goddard’s voice through that most maligned studio tool: Auto-Tune.  Unlike Vampire Weekend and its Ra Ra Riot-infused offshoot, Discovery, Hot Chip use the gimmick just as it was meant to be used: as an ear-catching trick to distract from an otherwise stilted track.  The title track breaks up the monotony for a few precious minutes, with Goddard showing off his own falsetto.  Still, as the record’s danceable highpoint, “One Life Stand” is only about as funky as a lesser track from either of the band’s previous two records.  While I really don’t like judging an album so strongly against others in a band’s catalogue, I can’t help but wonder if this is really the direction that Hot Chip should be moving toward.  Their often-ignored debut, Coming On Strong, was a collection of mellow soul songs that barely foreshadowed the makeover they would undergo for The Warning.  With songs as dull as “Brothers” and “Slush,” One Life Stand indicates a regression for Hot Chip that they’d better snap themselves out of quickly.

~ by E. on February 10, 2010.

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