Hot Chip

One Life Stand

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Label: EMI

If we’re going to point fingers, Hot Chip is probably the band most responsible for inviting indie America to the dancefloors throughout the last decade. While the Rapture focused on rough-edged synth-spikes, and Boards of Canada were too far up their own ambient ass to loosen up hips, Hot Chip arrived on American shores on a tidal wave of commercial (and critical) adoration, and easily infiltrated Urban Outfitters’ soundtracks, medium-font festival posters and “The OC.” So it should come as a surprise that their latest, One Life Stand, is decidedly the least poppy record they’ve made so far. Introspective, un-electronic and kinda mopey, the band has matured their sound into a much more subdued rendition of their previous puppy-dog excitability.

Obviously Hot Chip are no strangers to heartbreak, with some of the band’s best songs (“We’re Looking for a Lot of Love,” “In the Privacy of Our Love”) having been written on the subject, but they’ve always been, at least, musically upbeat. Take “Wrestlers” off of 2008’s Made in the Dark, quite literally a scathing, professional wrestling metaphor for a relationship’s bitter decline, but you could still totally get down to it – it sacrificed none of its danceability with its magnetic bass and illuminative piano. Instead, on One Life Stand, we get things like “Alley Cats,” an equally despondent lost-love reminiscence, but this time it’s stripped down to little more than a live guitar, a toiling drum machine and Alexis’ cheated vocals – no cheekiness, no token 4/4s- just authentic dejection. The band is seasoned now, the breakup is more real – “Now that we’re older / There’s more that we must do / With songs we remember / Remember my love is with you.” They’re quite a way away from being That Boy From School.

One Life Stand isn’t pure melancholy. Standout “I Feel Better” comes equipped with an utterly badass string-surge that will keep a goofy grin smeared across your face, and the title track/lead single is pumped full of the same sort of jaunty bounce-bass that kept 2008’s “One Pure Thought” so alluring. But strangely, when One Life Stand does occasionally rock the fuck out it’s almost purely unassisted with electronic instruments. A surprising number of the tracks are led with conventional guitar and traditional piano, and it has varying effects. While the aforementioned “I Feel Better” ends up being one of the record’s truly extraordinary tracks, middlebrow whatever-isms like the thoroughly-unsynthisized “Hand Me Down Your Love” and the overlong “Slush” end up clunking all over the place. Even the full-bred electropop tracks waver in quality, the lyrically confounding “Brothers,” with its sci-fi keyboard plunks and far-reaching harmonies should be a club-crushing monstrosity, and to be fair it goddamn tries, but it ends up resigned to being a tolerable well-intention, unable to capitalize on the massive amount of momentum behind it.

One Life Stand
has the advantage of being book-ended by two of the best songs Hot Chip has ever penned (the icy rubber-peeler “Thieves in the Night” and the brain-beat masterwork and pre-release buzzer, “Take it In”) and they sound like the band you fell in love with back in 2006. Unfortunately, the rest of the album is full of sometimes-great, oft-half-baked experimentation, as if they’re now deathly afraid of what made them likable in the first place. It’s not a bad album, but it triggered nothing but a strong craving for another spin of The Warning or Made in the Dark than anything.

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