There are few bands that can make a crowd go completely ape-shit bonkers better than Hot Chip. “Over And Over” from 2006’s The Warning might be the most raucous party track of the new millennium, while “And I Was A Boy From School” made techno-heads smile with vocal harmonizing and stretched inflections garnering the hipster praise with the lyrics tying things together better than a corset. The gents discovered much more hype and acceptance in the U.S. than just about any other British import in quite some time. And for good reason.
The band was kitschy – a norm in the indie-dance genre – but it made things bubbly and cutesy. Keeping it strangely childish and entertaining, Hot Chip didn’t echo the absurd, overtly sexual style of CSS, telling you to suck on their art tits, nor did they mimic Peaches’s sexual gyrations. Their juxtaposition of floating balloons into the air and chopping off heads could be overlooked as friendly, playful and really just instantly loveable.
So it’s hard to say that Made in the Dark is Hot Chip holding back compared to its previous albums. It’s still an enthralling, bombastic and a somehow soothing stew of overblown synths, tightly-layered harmonies and cheesy pranks missing from The Warning. Luckily, though, the group’s main goal is still to blast through your speakers with commanding beats and unique sound layers. Opening track “Out at the Pictures” slowly trickles into a joyous, yelping party anthem – just like “Careful” did on the band’s last effort – not to be outdone by the boisterous “Shake a Fist” that pulses through various sonic movements. At one point, a voice beckons listeners to take out their headphones and crank the spacey, laser-gun beat. Nothing’s lost here. It’s still fucking dominating.
Hot Chip does dance around some new territory with mixed results. With its sextastic croons of tag-teaming and doubling up, the silly “Wrestlers” is undoubtedly meant for the viral “Flight of the Conchords” craze. It’s not nearly as fun as the band’s other ironic tracks. “We’re Looking for a Lot of Love” goes the sexy route in an entirely more enjoyable way. Considered acid jazz but for its use of the organ, the track’s whistling bits and dreamy rattles create a reflective break from the norm.
But the real differences here are when Hot Chip slow everything down to a crawl. In 2006, “The Warning” was a clear departure from the rest of the album with same name, but the group made it work with underused xylophone tinks and joyously morbid lyrics. The slow rollers on Made sometimes feel a bit out of place. The title track capitalizes on a sultry cocktail-lounge feel, while the album’s two closers – “Whistle for Will” and “In the Privacy of Our Love” – allow for Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard’s vocals to shine through in melodramatic fashion, aided by just a piano and hand claps. However, they’re both damn depressing tracks (Goddard crows “I’ll never see your love again / I’ll never be your love for sure”), and when placed in an album relying so heavily on the party atmosphere, they’re somber – and rather skippable – breaks from the giddy beat burners.
But still, it’s Hot Chip, and the group knows how to tear things up. The killer singles have returned in the forms of the instantly poppy and jittery “Ready for the Floor” and the guitar-heavy rattler “One Pure Thought,” a track that brings Hot Chip back to its roots of mashing more sober lyrics against ballistic beats. “Hold On” works in the same vein: A spy movie, warning siren-esque chime backed by the kitsch lyrics of, “I’m only going to heaven if it tastes like caramel.” It vibrates, it jerks and it saunters to the ass-shaking repetitions of the song’s title.
So what’s it all mean? This may be an LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver scenario: An album that receives heaps of acclaim upon its release and will surely garner praise near the end of the year on overall likeability and danceable fun. But really, who listens to anything but “All My Friends,” “Someone Great” and “Get Innocuous!”? Made in the Dark may be the same thing. The album is composed, tightly produced and has absolutely ballistic tracks. Ultimately memorable beyond the scattered but glorious, atmospheric thumpers? Probably not.