Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Album Review:
Hot Chip - Made in the Dark

Hot Chip - Made in the Dark

(DFA/Astralwerks; 2008)


"Wrestlers" [mp3]

Last October Hot Chip’s official web site posted a press release stating Made in the Dark was “faster and rockier” than 2006’s The Warning. “Faster” I could fathom, but a Hot Chip rock album? P4K was apparently similarly miffed heading into their interview with frontman Alexis Taylor, as they asked if these adjectives were accurate. He replied, “Yeah, some of it is rockier, and there are moments that you could detect a bit of a heavy metal influence.”

Heavy metal, huh? Now he’s fucking with us.

Perhaps that’s the most charming quality of a band like Hot Chip. They have a good time. If you’ve ever been to one of their live shows, you know they have a really good time. They write songs that make people dance, even those who normally feel uncomfortable committing more than a fervent head bob. They write satirical songs like “Over and Over” that make fun of the very genre they happen to be mastering. Sometimes, they pen a slow number that melts your heart, right before they bite you on the neck and push you back on the dance floor.

Made in the Dark has all the Hot Chip trappings and much, much more. You have your dancey numbers, a la “Ready for the Floor” or “Touch Too Much.” You have your tongue-in-cheek diddies like “Wrestlers,” a classic Hot Chip number that features Taylor singing oh-so-sweetly, “Everyone knows Monday night means wrestling” over break-your-heart backing vocals/piano. It would be difficult to write a review and not mention the titular track, which features bonafide break-your-heart music and lyrics (albeit featuring a winking line like, “Since I stole this song we have made a new start.”)

There’s a lot to like here, maybe even love. Unfortunately a few snoozers dampen the party. “Shake a Fist,” despite being the album’s first single, fails to make me want to shake much of anything (perhaps they should have stuck with the song’s original title, “Shake a Stick”?). “Don’t Dance,” on the other hand, does a fine job living up to its imperative title.

For the record (ha), the album does employ more organic rock sounds, such as the opening guitar on “One Pure Thought” (which, for one horrifying moment, sounds like the heralding of a Sheryl Crow song). I’m reminded of TV on the Radio’s transition from Desperate Youth to Cookie Mountain – no more drum machines, more guitar – though Hot Chip hasn’t entirely abandoned the electronic sound that defined them on standouts like “And I Was a Boy from School” or “Over and Over.” I’m intrigued by the band’s more soulful side on “Made in the Dark” and “In the Privacy of Our Love,” though the slower numbers on The Warning fit that album’s aesthetic much more seamlessly.

Ultimately Made in the Dark may not be “the definitive Hot Chip” as their press release has asserted. Nonetheless, the band’s shown they have a palette of sounds to choose from as they continue to stake out this satirical/dance/heavy metal territory only they can inhabit. I might even say a palette of colours and colours and colours and – you get the picture.


backdrifter said...

Half nelson
Full nelson
Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson

The Moon said...

I think the songs do complement the rest of their catalog... they just don't do such a great job of standing out on their own. I'm kind of surprised by the score. I think I would have 70-75 it?

Have you tried to find any of their Ep's before the Coming On Strong re-release? They're actually quite good!