Review Summary: A quirkier, though far less impressive, outing for the UK electronica goons.
When I first heard that the title of Hot Chip’s newest album was to be “Made In the Dark” I smiled a little, dismissing it as the kind of stupid little ironic sex joke the band usually employ. One thing’s for sure though, I definitely didn’t expect the album’s title track to be so sad, so slow, or so serious. I might have expected it to be a little better, a little catchier, but I guess the same can be said for the whole album.
After all, when Hot Chip’s The Warning came out a couple years ago, it really did surprise me. Not only was it likable and fun, it was also meticulously crafted, well-written and even semi-emotional. There were a handful of tracks on said CD that really made me question my integrity as a serious music listener: in a year that birthed Joanna Newsom’s Ys and Liars’ Drum’s Not Dead, these were some of my favorite songs of the year.
Made in the Dark, and I mean the album here, isn’t quite as good. It has a couple songs where the blend of hip-hop beats, un-funny lyrics and layered synthesizer chaos adds up to more than it should be worth, but that phenomenon doesn’t occur often. Not like it did on The Warning, or at least, not like it did for me. The star of the album is obvious from the beginning: the only thing Made in the Dark has that The Warning really didn’t. It’s the beats. Yeah, on Made in the Dark, Hot Chip really has the drum machines working overtime. On The Warning, beats were an afterthought: listening, I’d find myself far more interested in the medley of tones and pads employed than what was holding it together. But that’s because there’s nothing as interesting or complex as ‘Ready For the Floor’, a really tight, intricate mesh of staccato synths, maddening loops and drum machine discharge. Joe Goddard’s voice begins the track, and remains a constant till the end. His tone is composed, only slightly melodic, but not dissonant by any means. Look at a picture of him, and you will know exactly what he sounds like. I mean it.
There’re a lot of fumbles here unfortunately, a couple tepid ballads, a lot of irritating goon-hop, and a couple songs that go on for far too long (though most of those fall under one of the former categories.) However, the band impress again on ‘Touch too Much’, possibly the album’s best track. Placed directly after one of the band’s most tepid ballads and one of their more irritating goon-hoppy ones, Touch too Much shines even more the brighter. It’s the clattering percussion, the shaking of the tambourine, the big synthesizers: everything one would hope for from a Hot Chip album, just a bit too alone in that manner. Perhaps the biggest factor in setting Touch too Much apart from its contemporaries is its vocal hook: Goddard and backing singer Alexis Taylor harmonize lazily, repeating the lines “When you said “It’s a touch too much”/I knew, I knew/That I’d be walking home again” while keyboards swell and synthetic beats pulsate. It’s a good song, but not good enough to save an album of significantly sub-par ones, unfortunately.