Critical Voices: Hot Chip

January 31, 2008

Hot Chip; Made in the Dark; DFA Records

Hot Chip’s third album really should have been called The Warning Pt. II instead of Made in the Dark. The latest installment from the British quintet has all the trappings of a great album, but there’s no avoiding the similarities to their 2006 sophomore effort, The Warning.

Exhibit A: The LP is front-loaded with dance singles. Album-starters “Shake a Fist” and “Ready for the Floor” conform to the “Over and Over”/“Boy from School” archetype (albeit with more aggressive textures), which will undoubtedly please dance floor aficionados. (Stay tuned for the onslaught of DJ remixes that will inevitably circulate faster than you can mutter “blog post.”)

Exhibit B: As the title suggests, the tracklist feels a bit hodgepodge. Given Alexis Taylor’s weak spot for electro-soul ballads, a few of the slower songs (“We’re Looking for the a Lot of Love,” “Whistle for Will”) pussyfoot with the clutch, muddling the album’s momentum. I’m not suggesting that Taylor should repress that dreamy tenor (see: the excellent title track), but perhaps one or two songs could have been cut from the 13-track affair.

Exhibit C: Droll wit all around. If you didn’t catch on to the catchy spell-outs in “Over and Over” (Kissing-Sexing-Casio-Poke), now would be a good time to chuckle at some of the band’s goofier tendencies, like the “sounds of the studio” segment in “Shake a Fist.” And let’s not overlook some of the lyrical gems: “I’m only going to heaven if it feels like hell. I’m only going to heaven if it tastes like caramel.” Yum.

All in all, Hot Chip seems to be recycling the same formula that increased their fanbase two years ago. While The Warning represented a strong stylistic leap forward from 2004’s Coming on Strong, no such heroics prevail on Made in the Dark. The one exception—the embellishment of synthesizers on a handful of tracks—hints at progress, but to little avail. As much as Hot Chip would love to have us “crank up those headphones,” Made in the Dark feels uncomfortably familiar.

I hope you like sequels.

Voice’s Choices: “Shake a Fist,” “One Pure Thought,” “Made in the Dark.”

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