I’ve waited a long time for Hot Chip to better the astonishing triptych of You Ride, We Ride, In my Ride, Shining Escalade and Baby Said from their debut album ‘Coming on Strong’, but after years of coming (oh so) close, with ‘One Life Stand’ they have finally delivered their most consistently good release.
Consistently good though makes it sound workmanlike, adequate. Let’s be clear, ‘One Life Stand’ is a stunning, deliriously good album, it’s the album that fans of the band will have always hoped and wanted them to make, with all the flaws that marred 2008’s inventive yet inconsistent ‘Made In The Dark’ ironed out.
It is notable that both Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor have released solo albums since then and, having sated their more awkward and experimental tendencies, ‘One Life Stand’ is their best release to date and in many ways their most conventional.
Like any top-drawer Hollywood blockbuster you can neatly divide the album into three parts; the opening four tracks are hardwired straight into the dancefloor, Thieves In The Night is vintage as is the Motor City soul stomp of Hand Me Down Your Love to the deservedly ubiquitous One Life Stand. Of these opening tracks though it’s I Feel Better that takes the crown with it’s overblown strings, processed vocals and steel drums. In lesser hands, it could sound awful as it is like Kanye’s ’808’s and Heartbreak’ on steroids, not only rehabilitating the much maligned Autotune, but asking hard questions of pop’s coroners who hastily pronounced it dead last year.
While it has been bonafide indie-disco classics such as Over and Over and Ready For The Floor that have done the most for the band’s reputation, it has always been their way with a soppy ballad that has marked them out as something special. The middle section of the album delivers three Kleenex moments that stand among the best tracks the band have written and probably the most unlikely love song you’ll hear this year; a muted yet heartfelt paean to friendship and the simple pleasures of hanging out, playing Xbox and drinking beer.
To be honest I could probably live without the “humana-humana-humana” refrain that runs through the first half of Slush, but (oh my God!) the final two minutes rank up there with the band’s best moments, as Taylor’s melancholic refrain is carried softly into the night by muted woodwind, woozy guitar and the return of those steel drums. Which takes us onto Alley Cats, in many ways the quintessential Hot Chip tune with Alexis Taylor’s voice, so tenderly fragile that you just want to cotton wool the little chap to keep him safe from harm, finding its perfect foil in Joe Goddard’s flatter delivery. When the two vocalists harmonise it’s almost unbearably sweet.
The final section of the album takes us back into more euphoric territory with We Have Love and its hands-in-the-air celebration, all throbbing bass, glittering synths and the closing track Take It In, whose gospel chorus bursts through the songs taut and edgy, against a ray of sunlight through the blackest of clouds, once again demonstrating their uncanny ability to deliver choruses that soar above their tunes.
Over three albums, countless remixes and various side projects, Hot Chip have shown themselves to have an innate understanding of everything from Techno and Electronica to R’n‘B and Pop. Finally though it feels like they understand what Hot Chip sounds like, and rise far above the sum of their many influences.
For too long Pop has been surrendered to the production factories, buffed and polished to an eye watering sheen, hyper sexualised but devoid of anything but the most plastic of emotions. With ‘One Life Stand’, Hot Chip have boldly reclaimed that much abused three letter word from Cowel’s performing seal, given us their best album to date; one that speaks of deeper feelings and emotions – faith , fidelity and friendship – rather than just a little Bump n’ Grind. It may only be February but if ‘One Life Stand’ doesn’t dominate the end of year polls I’ll be astounded.