Sunday, February 24, 2008

Made in the Dark - Hot Chip

Made in the Dark

Hot Chip
DFA/Astralwerks Records.

SCQ Rating: 71%

It’s good to have Hot Chip back, especially in these dark February days where winter has its claws dug in so deep, it’s easy to believe Spring might never return. Their staccato rhythms and playful dance-rock are the perfect remedies to shake cold off bones with, and that’s exactly what Alexis Taylor & Co. waste no time getting to. “There’s a whole world in there,” he sings, concluding opener ‘Out at the Pictures’, and there’s little doubt Hot Chip have felt that same world pressuring their follow-up to 2006’s The Warning. You can feel the restraint in their breakdowns; where once they would completely let go without fear of overwhelming listeners (as proven by the predecessor’s first track, ‘Careful’), Made in the Dark sounds too deliberate, too planned to really knock our socks off.

‘Shake a Fist’ is big-beat TNT, unstable and undeniable, reclaiming the unpredictable song-structures of The Warning and leading into lead single ‘Ready for the Floor’, a catchy tune too content in its chorus to be anything but pleasant listening. ‘Bendable Poseable’ and ‘One Pure Thought’ feature a raw guitar presence which the band manages to balance well electronically, and these tracks provide the best reasons to stage a dance-athon in your living room this weekend. ‘Touch Too Much’ could be a great follow-up single (its remix potential is enough reason) and ‘Wrestlers’ flexes Hot Chip’s best muscle; the ability to slice warmth and emotion into songs you expect to be pure pop-silliness.

Of course, the most notable distinction on Made in the Dark is the prevalence of slow burners. ‘We’re Looking For A Lot of Love’ fits right in, taking the RPM down at the right moment and chilling like ‘Look After Me’ was in 2006. The title track, with its Van Morrison shuffle (seriously, I’m not reaching) and ‘Whistle for Will’ are even barer, with varied results; the former is a sweet reflection between electro-inspired dance songs, while the latter feels unfinished. Since the only remaining song is also piano-led, short and barren, Made in the Dark, for all its sonic adventures, ends on a particularly weak note.

With the album’s axis off balance and a few songs that border on irritating (B-side in-hiding ‘Hold On’, in particular), Hot Chip should’ve left more on the editing floor, or at the very least, re-thought their second half sequencing. None of this makes Made in the Dark a disappointment, since few could reasonably expect Hot Chip to re-define dance-rock all over again. This will surely satisfy those who kept The Warning on repeat these past two years, but Made in the Dark feels better-suited being played before a night on the town than during it.

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