20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews Hot Chip’s One Life Stand by crumblymuffin

Hot Chip's One Life Stand is a pleasant surprise for listeners

PREVIEW: VISIT Hot Chip’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts

Hot Chip doesn’t seem to have much of a problem putting themselves out there.  Their first few albums, squiggly homages to dance, soul and synth-pop fell in quite nicely with the mid-decade boom of equally squiggly dance records out at the time, but as history beats on, they’ve been more and more at risk of becoming nothing more than a retread, a burst of nostalgia for a dead genre few are willing to touch. It comes as equal parts surprise and necessity then, that the band would release an album as incredibly diverse as One Life Stand at the dawn of the new decade.

Instead of letting their method fall by the wayside though, it seems that Hot Chip have instead focused their vision, refracting their synth-dance backgrounds into a broader spectrum of songcraft.  While tracks like opener “Thieves in the Night” and “One Life Stand” show a lot of the old tricks and trademarks of the band (maybe add in a few more mind-bending synthesizer sounds), other tracks stretch the band’s skills into new realms.  “Hand Me Down Your Love” calls to mind a mix of Spoon and classic 50’s soul, and “Alley Cats” unfolds into a captivating minimalism that begs for replay after replay.

The middle of the album sags for a bit, mostly under the weight of “Slush,” a long, expeditionary ballad that isn’t bad on it’s own, but after following the equally ponderous “Brothers,” there’s a near loss of focus.  Not that this is a particularly bad thing.  The aforementioned gem “Alley Cats” serves as a perfect counterpoint, pulling the album back into a beautifully focused piece of near-perfect writing.  Just wait for the chorus build up to dissolve back into the verse and you’ll see what I mean.

Without a doubt, this is Hot Chip at their best.  Each song shows an intense dedication to craftsmanship, and the piece as a whole plays marvelously, swinging the listener back and forth between dark dancefloor seductions and breezy pop jams.  For someone who was never too sold on Hot Chip, I’m quite fascinated by the album they’ve released, and can only hope they continue such an elusive evolution.  It’d be nice to know there’s at least one band out there who’ll keep pleasantly surprising me at every turn.

-Dan Creahan

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