Hot Chip - Made In The Dark
Tue 11th Mar, 2008 Music Reviewsin
Hot Chip is hot shit: even our Kylie wanted a piece of the action and reportedly penned a song for them. NME quoted the band’s vocalist/ keyboardist/beatmaster Tom Goddard describing the beginnings of a track sent to Hot Chip via their management as “a crazy song. It’s industrial and clanging and even has farmyard animal noises on it.” Sounds unlike anything you would normally associate with the singing budgie. It has been hinted that this track may well be turned into something that will be included on their fourth album. Stay tuned. The album that created the stir in the first place, The Warning, blasted the band’s infectious, hypnotic electro-pop into the stratosphere and turned what was initially an unlikeable band name into one that was dropped at hip soirees the world over. And their third album Made In The Dark is definitely one to listen to “over and over and over and over,” as it improves with every listen.
There are more guitars on Made In The Dark, and laying down tracks for this album is the first time the band have recorded in a conventional studio. Hot Chip’s recording time, in this case, was spent half in the studio, the other half in their homes on home-recording equipment. The slow, cranking wind-up of opener Out At The Pictures, with its complex time signature, could be the beginnings of a track by Muse until the beat drops and Alexis Taylor’s characteristic vocal kicks in. It sounds like what musical instruments would get up to when the human’s have left the building: cacophonous celebratory spontaneity.
Waning slightly for an aural bleep massage, in comes the eastern-tinged ‘Shake A Fist’, with shades of Blancmange’s Living On The Ceiling. As if Hot Chip isn’t prolific enough, this track seems to launch directly into a track within a track after just under two minutes. “Before we go any further, I’d like to show you all a game I made up/ This game is called ‘Sounds Of The Studio’ and it can be played with any record, including this one/ You may be surprised.” Surprised is an understatement. Vicious, scratching mayhem enters the spectrum and the screams suggest a studio invasion. Eeek! Reminds me of the video for Basement Jaxx’s Where’s Your Head At? Bizarrely, this section of the track also calls to mind L.A. Style’s 1992 offering James Brown Is Dead on the wrong speed – so slow it’s warped.
Hot Chip’s sound has a consistently twisted quality and their first single Ready For The Floor would lure every last wallflower out onto the dancefloor (as the title suggests). Addictive to the last nanosecond, the rapid-fire, carnivalesque tweets defy logic but inspire much pulling of shapes. Simple, sing-along lyrics – “I’m hoping with chance you might take this dance/ You’re my number one guy” – call for both lip synching and finger-pointing both skyward and toward that special about-to-be-someone. Tactfully, the way Taylor pronounces ‘guy’ it could be ‘girl’ so this track doesn’t discriminate. His pronunciation of ‘dance’ is toffy to the extreme, as if he’s from Radelaide: ‘dah-nce’.
It’s Hot Chip’s attempts to show versatility that pull this release down. Title track Made In The Dark almost sounds like an Australian Idol hopeful’s songwriting effort. Taylor’s vocal sounds as weak as a pulled-off-the-street-into-the-studio-based-on-look 80s one hit wonder on this one. Snore. The chugging insistence of One Pure Thought is welcome relief. Screeching guitars up the rock ante and lead into the perfect accompaniment for an intergalactic chase scene: Hold On – “I’m only going to Heaven if it feels like Hell/ I’m only going to Heaven if it tastes like caramel.” More nonsensical lyrical content there never was. Crank this one up and join the conga line of gurning freaks. To be bound and gagged during this track would be torturous: you’d confess to anything to be unshackled. Clocking in at 6:21 minutes is insufficient bongo debauchery. Hit repeat – hurry! Particularly since a slow offering about wrestlers, simply called Wrestlers follows.
Don’t Dance saves the day and starts innocently enough. Just when your bum has started to warm the seat, though, in comes a cracking breakdown of gargantuan proportions. A hiatus of distorted organ and “with this freedom” sung/chanted over the top precedes face-melting bleepage that makes the song’s title ironic. ‘Don’t Dance’? They’re having a giraffe! Ugh! Another painful down tempo number! And another one! That makes four all up and the skip button is a definite requirement for this set of ears. It’s not so much that Hot Chip suck at ballads, it’s just that they’re so on top of their game on other side of the continuum. I suppose it’s good to compose tracks so the crowd can go out for a quick fag break during your set, but I doubt this was the band’s intention. In the case of Hot Chip, they are best served scorching at maximum BPM.
Check out the tracklist…
01. Out at the Pictures
02. Shake a Fist
03. Ready for the Floor
04. Bendable Poseable
05. We’re Looking for a Lot of Love
06. Touch Too Much
07. Made in the Dark
08. One Pure Thought
09. Hold On
11. Don’t Dance
12. Whistle for Will
13. In the Privacy of Our Love