Wednesday, August 2

Album Review: Hot Chip

"The Warning"
DFA/EMI; 2006

So my first experience with Hot Chip came around February, as a friend of mine, S.A. Andrée (of Orangutang Gang Bang fame…really), found what he thought was an awesome song on It was a song called “The Warning,” and yes, it was pretty damn good. That precise, precise, precise bass line (that sixteenth note “skip” is brilliant); those delicate and graceful ahhs; and the neat vocals. It all tied together real well, even though that whole section near the end didn’t make sense. I liked the song so much that I later felt the need to search for more Hot Chip. All I found was "Coming On Strong", their slightly disappointing debut album. All the songs were lacking that coolness and finesse in “The Warning,” in fact, it was lacking the song all together.

Fast forward to mid-June, and all of a sudden I’m seeing Hot Chip reviews for their latest album, The Warning. I was pleasantly surprised, because I put two and two together and realized the song must be on the album, hence maybe there’s a chance that Hot Chip made a much better effort on a rockin’ album. And yes, they did.

If you are unfamiliar with Hot Chip, think of a British Postal Service (the band) with more of a knack for songwriting rather than playing around with electronics. Their main toy of choice seems to be little metallic clinks and clanks. Sometimes, they’re even melodic, making sort of a glockenspiel-ish sound sometimes and a vibraphone sound other times. Anyways, the neat little doodles with those sounds add a lot to some of these tracks (like the single, “Over and Over,” “The Warning,” and “Won’t Wash”). Other stand out instruments are the bass entrances in “Tchaparian” (it’s not much, but the volume swells are sooo cool) and the guitars in “No Fit State” (it’s such a laidback jam, really).

All this talk reminds me why I like this Hot Chip so much. A lot of the great things about these songs are all the subtle touches and textures these guys add. In “Over & Over,” the light tambourine in the beginning is perfect to fill in the space of the groove with some lightness. The coolest part is when it stops playing near the end of the first verse, cause that’s probably when you’ll realize it was even there in the first place. Also, that awesome, yet soft organ part in the second verse is something. Really, it’s hip, and it’s layered just right in the mix so it’s still clear.

And the vocals are quite memorable throughout the album; Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard are on the ball. “And I Was a Boy From School” is all about Alexis’ vocals; the verses depend on that sweet, sweet, falsetto bend in the middle of each line. And “Arrest Yourself” is a cool, funky track that features quirky lyrics with an awesome delivery of cool and confidence. Then there’s “Not Fit State” and the vocal vamp of “I’m in no fit state / I’m in no fit shape.” The entrance is perfect, and it gets into a nice little jam section with addition instruments and vocals.

There are a few blemishes on this album, though. Take “Colours,” for example. The bassline is just lame—nothing else can describe it. It pretty much sticks to the drum part note for note, and rarely, if ever, strays from that pattern. Then there’s those background vocals in the chorus singing “Colours and colours and colours and…” you get the picture. It just sounds all hokey. The worst part is that it’s a fairly long track and doesn’t really get anywhere. Which is another gripe I have about this album: a lot of these songs seem too long. There are sections that could’ve been shortened or cut out all together, making slightly more coherent songs.

So Hot Chip, you’ve won me over for now. There are definitely some great qualities about this group and signs of more awesome albums in the future.

Hot Chip - The Warning
Hot Chip - No Fit State
Hot Chip - And I Was A Boy From School

- John Higgins -

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