Hot Chip - One Life Stand

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2010-02-01

Hot Chip, one of Britain's most interesting bands, have always been somewhat hit-and-miss on record. After an indifferent debut - 2004's Coming On Strong - they released two albums, The Warning in 2006 and Made in the Dark in 2008, which had moments of exuberant brilliance but also a fair amount of filler. When they're good - on, say 'Boy From School', or 'Shake a Fist', or their two gold-plated dancefloor classics, 'Over and Over' and the heavenly 'Ready for the Floor' - they're unrivalled in their ability to produce quirky, heart-stopping, infectious dance-pop anthems. A future Hot Chip singles compilation will be very good indeed. But inconsistency has always been their hallmark. One Life Stand marks a definite progression, for despite hitting a couple of bum notes, it's mostly a warm and wonderful record that moves the heart and the feet in equal measure.

The first four tracks are all superb, in different ways. Opener 'Thieves in the Night' is a sumptuous, upbeat dance tune that fully demonstrates the peculiar charm of Alexis Taylor's reedy, vulnerable, alluring voice, more than a little reminiscent of Bernard Sumner. 'Happiness is what we all want', he sings, aptly summing up the album's lyrical focus: One Life Stand is sweetly preoccupied with love and relationships. 'Hand Me Down Your Love' begins with a rare appearance of live drums, banging out an insistent, compelling beat on the downbeat verse, before a glorious, string-laden chorus finds Taylor again seeking love and happiness: 'I've known for a long time/That you are my love line'. 'I Feel Better' features a perhaps-inevitable appearance from the dreaded Auto-Tune, but it sounds bizarrely brilliant when applied to Joe Goddard's awkward, languid drawl, and the song is a dark, rich, pleasurable concoction. It's followed by 'One Life Stand', the flagship single (and if you haven't seen the delightful video, Youtube it now), which is amazingly good. It grabs you from the outset, with an infectious disco beat and synth refrain as Taylor demands, ominously, 'Tell me where you been to/Nowhere that you shouldn't do'. There follow some dazzling flights of invention - notably when the main hook is played by steel drums, but with the sound cut up and re-assembled, making it like nothing you've heard before - and an adorable chorus, with Taylor pleading 'I only want to be your one life stand/Tell me do you stand by your man?' It's a delicious, lovingly crafted, complex track and - crucially - it's impossible not to dance to.

But, of course, the album has a few mis-steps. 'Brothers' is a gloopy, sentimental paean to fraternal love, with some excruciating lyrics ('I can play Xbox with my brothers/It's not about who won or lost'), and it falls particularly flat coming after the barnstorming title track. It's followed by a ballad, the aptly-named 'Slush', which irritates with its "humana-humana-humana-humana" backing vocals and general air of listlessness. These two tracks, placed directly in the middle of the album, kill the momentum generated by the opening quartet stone-dead. Happily, things pick up again with the beautiful 'Alley Cats', a blissfully textured, cleverly written meditation on loneliness. After the entertaining, Housey 'We Have Love', there's another lull with the penultimate track - the brooding 'Keep Quiet', which drifts by without making much of an impression - but on the closer, Hot Chip pull out of the bag the finest chorus of the whole record. 'Take It In', first released at the end of last year, is magnificent. It starts with a moody, almost dour verse enlivened by a striking keyboard figure, before diving, with almost indecent haste, into a rapturous chorus, all sweeping synths, squelchy guitars, and lush harmonies. It's utterly glorious, and a brilliant way to end the record: 'Please take my heart and keep it close to you', Goddard and Taylor wail, an entreaty that you want to unthinkingly agree to, coming as it does at the end of such a warm, big-hearted, generous album.

Pete Sykes

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