Ruth's Manuvas


My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

Hot Chip – One Life Stand album review

Hot Chip - One Life Stand

One Life Stand is proving to be a controversial little so-and-so. Opinion at the critics’ first hurdle appears to be widely split on Hot Chip’s fourth studio album. Yet panning it seems a bit too easy because in truth, it doesn’t have the instant Ready For The Floor rush about it, which may explain why some reviews have been positively blaze about this glorious album.

Behind the specs and chinos, this geeky fivesome have created pure chemistry. They’ve done the musical equivalent of tinkering with a complicated looking set of tubes, vials and chemicals to produce a really rather stunning, inventive concoction packed with 2-step, disco, 80s, funk, electro, soul and pop.

It’s a coming-of-age of sorts for the British band, who have crept into the hearts and heads of those looking for beats without the obvious chart sound. The songwriting talents of the charmingly shaky falsetto voice of Alexis Taylor and the rhythm engine room, Joe Goddard, have come together to create a sensitive record – both in lyrical exploration of love and the elaborate attention to beats and melodic hooks using more than just a handful of instruments.

The thing with Hot Chip is that they don’t look like they could create such hip music, which is why this – arguably their most varied, musically inventive album to date – forces more than just a wry smile and an insistent desire to dance.

 It opens emphatically with rip roaring floorfiller, Thieves In The Night; a tale of passion which sees Alexis conclude, “Happiness is what we all want.” Hand Me Down Your Love has mismatched four-to-the-floor rhythms, pianos and vocals which burst into a softer, romantic, violin tinged chorus.

I Feel Better steps up as One Life Stand’s clear, pulsating crescendo. It echoes all the best bits of 80s Madonna and 90s trance, without the bad bits. And its two-step rhythms, arms-in-the-air synth, steel drums, together with Alexis’ catchy declaration “I only want one night, together in our arms”, all combine to make this Hot Chip at their playful best. Even Joe Goddard’s touch of magic turns the normally offensive use of auto tune into dulcet bliss.

The first single and album title track, One Life Stand, as well as closer, Take It In, are also neatly chiselled grooves, with the latter offering a brooding bassline and siren-sounding keyboards before a sing-a-long chorus suddenly breaks through the foreboding.

There are also really cozy moments on the record. Brothers is essentially about their deep bond of friendship and Alley Cats is a fascinating story mirroring the homage to love that One Life Stand becomes.

The only gripe with the album is that there are a couple of slightly below par tracks. Slush and Keep Quiet feel a bit like fillers, but this could be due to the lack of balance where beats normally mellow the sugariness of Alexis’ vocals. It could even be because Hot Chip just do spine tingling pulse racers so impeccably well that comparison ultimately leaves the ballads wanting.

One Life Stand isn’t as accessible as Made In The Dark, but then it has fewer weak spots. In fact, it offers more than Hot Chip’s previous three albums – more disco, more two-step, more soul, more emotion, more everything – a factor which may mean it gets pushed further left of field from mainstream consumption.

Ask in a year and the opinion that One Life Stand is their best yet may have changed. But that’s doubtful, as this album stands head and shoulders above the others a real stunner, full of dancefloor moments, fit-to-burst tales of love from Alexis’ soulful tones and brilliantly crafted hooks that nestle in a sweet spot in your head for days.

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