Once they could walk on water, but here it sounds like they’re treading it.
Chris Beanland 2010-01-26
We once thought Hot Chip could walk on water – but half of the songs on this album sound like a band treading it instead.
So what’s happened between their last long-player, 2008’s Made in the Dark, and this new collection? The intensely likeable, clever, visionary quintet are undoubtedly one of Britain's musical success stories of the last decade, and their Mercury-nominated 2006 outing The Warning can still take your breath away with its brilliance. But, of the ten tracks on this fourth album of electro-pop, five should have been left out on a Monday morning with the bins.
Those clangers: Hand Me Down Your Love, Keep Quiet, Brothers, Alley Cats and Slush. There's a bad pop feeling about all five – like their makers have aimed for accessibility but muddled immediacy for inanity. The latter three are unusually cloying ballads that, instead of making you feel soppy, leave you wanting to shake a fist (pun intended). Slush is so cringe-inducingly awful you have to pinch yourself to check it's for real.
Inevitably, because half of the album stinks it completely tarnishes the good songs. If you only listen to the other five songs here, then you get a selection of thoroughly enjoyable new Hot Chip tracks. Trim the fat and you’d be left with a cracking EP's worth of material.
We Have Love and I Feel Better are particularly exhilarating: 90s house stomps that precisely summon up the spirit of Black Box and S'Express. Elsewhere, the album's title track is pure pop done perfectly. These successes make the odd missteps all the more irritating – it’s obvious Hot Chip can craft the finest fare, but have the band been getting a bit too acquainted with their pipes and slippers?
This is an imbalanced record, and one that leaves you frustrated rather than elated. But despite the blips, they have dished up at least two cerebral bangers here. This is what they do best – and why tracks like Hold On and Over and Over, proffered on their previous two records, don't lose anything in their continuing ubiquity. Hot Chip are a band you can still believe in. Let's hope that in the future they preach dancefloor domination from the pulpit, instead of sermonising on slightly sickly love songs.
As for now, at least, they seem a little less like Gods and more like mortal men whose synths don't always have all the answers.