Hot Chip - A Bath Full of Ecstasy - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Hot Chip - A Bath Full of Ecstasy

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2019-06-21
Hot Chip - A Bath Full of Ecstasy
Hot Chip - A Bath Full of Ecstasy

English band Hot Chip have come a long way in their two decades of existence. They've always had a synth-pop core at the center of their quirk-filled music, but they've slowly evolved away from their lo-fi, folk soul origins to a more slickly produced, radio and dance floor friendly style. My own introduction to their off-kilter approach was 2006's The Warning, whose title track, filled with the mellow tones of a glockenspiel and soothing synths, gently warned that Hot Chip would "break your legs, snap off your head" and "put you down, under the ground". That bizarre sense of humor still exists in their current work.

For their latest album, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, the band brought in producers Philippe Zdar and Rodaidh McDonald, who seem to have helped the group smooth away any remaining rough edges in their work. To be fair though, the transition to a groovier, ultra-pop style was already mostly complete in their previous album, Why Make Sense?, with the soulful 'Need You Now' and the sexy funk of 'Started Right'.

The vocals are front and center through most of the set, such as on the lovely opener, 'Melody of Love', which starts simply with singing and a few piano chords before unfolding into lush electro-fullness. Alexis Taylor has really come a long way with his singing ability, and the band wisely makes that the focus on a lot of tracks.

There are two absolute highlights on the set. The first is, predictably, the first single, 'Hungry Child', which leads with a charmingly intricate keyboard melody, comes loaded with grooves and goes for the heart with its clear love song aspirations. Amusingly, however, the video for the song is something of a short sketch, starring Martin Starr and Milana Vayntrub, who play a couple whose relationship is falling apart, and, thanks to some magical realism, have their lives overtaken completely by the song until they almost die. It's both amusing and disturbing in the best Hot Chip tradition.

The other winner on the album is 'Spell', which starts off innocuously enough with a basic beat, a few electronic noodlings hiding in the shadows, and breathy, slightly tweaked vocals. But somehow it builds and builds into something utterly captivating. By the time the chorus hits, you're wrapped in a swirling vortex of delight and bubbly synths.

Other tracks aren't quite at the level of transcendence but are solid nonetheless. 'Positive' works a bangin' synth line and brings lots of sparkles and confetti for the choruses. And 'Echo' leads with a piano reminiscent of Ace of Base or early Saint Etienne but develops into an empowering anthem about living in the moment and forgetting your troubles. 'No God' is a rollicking good time with lots of energetic percussion and uplifting synths.

There are a few duds, and they tend to be the slower songs, such as 'Why Does My Mind', which wanders down a dark street, trying to reach the light found elsewhere but coming off as more aimless and even hopeless. 'Clear Blue Skies' is muted and uninspired, and kind of makes my skin itch.

Still, the best songs in the set are way, way up there, and the album as a whole is quite satisfying. Hot Chip aren't quite the masters of their domain, but they're getting closer and closer.

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