HOT CHIP – One Life Stand (2010)

If you’re a red-blooded American (who happens to like dance music, of course), chances are, you don’t like Hot Chip. You probably subscribe to the go Big or go Home ethos, and demand from your dance music nothing less than a total endorphin overload. This is something that Hot Chip don’t deliver – their music is painstakingly intimate and mellow. Even the band’s cadre of well-renowned singles (Boy From School, Over and Over, Ready For The Floor) are comparatively tame when stacked up to the likes of Justice or MGMT or Passion Pit or…well, practically anyone really. “Dance music for lovers” is how a friend of mine described the band, and it’s a fitting description because inevitably, just like all lovers, Hot Chip will eventually disappoint you. That’s been the case with all their albums, and that remains the case on appropriately-named One Life Stand.

The good things: One Life Stand has several songs on it that are able to carry the torch of its much-lauded singles. Two of these songs are, in fact, singles (the title track and Take It In). Other notable songs are Brothers (wherein the band do their best M83 impression, to great success) and album-standout We Have Love, a song that’s the band’s most deliberate flirtation with club music to date. All these songs are bouncy and hypnotic and surprisingly low-key, but don’t let that fool you – they’ll take up residence in your head just the same. Now, the bad news is that the rest of the songs don’t stand out much at all. This is because either the band is working against their strengths (the tepid ballad Slush suffers from a horrible constructional error – the backbone of the entire song is an extraordinarily annoying vocalized arpeggio, and it’s a textbook case of how one production error can derail an entire song) or there’s just not enough happening in the songs in general to justify their semi-lengthy runtimes (often five to six minutes). Alley Cats is a prime example. There’s just not enough going on in it to keep us engaged in it for five and a half minutes, and as a result, the song hangs around around waaaay after its not welcomed anymore. The same could be said for Thieves In The Night, Keep Quiet, Hand Me Down Your Love, etc.

It might sound degrading to label a group as a “singles band” (album singles, not relationship singles, although both terms occasionally fit Hot Chip all the same), but that’s what Hot Chip are. If ever there was a reason to use the iTunes store, this is it. I can’t see any one person who’d honestly want to revisit this album in its entirety on a frequent basis. Still, despite the previous sentences’ negativity, I should point out that the songs worth acquiring here really are quite good; this isn’t a case of “oh, these are just the best of a bad group of songs” – when Hot Chip land everything, they’re a lot of fun. But they don’t do it, often, and their good songs are better suited to shuffled playlists and mixtapes than to an album all their own. It all depends on how you look at it. Me, I’m not scolding the band for failure. I’m praising them for their remarkable consistency.

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