Hot Chip – The Warning (distributed by EMI)
Standing at the crossroads of musical reasoning and rhymes, twiddling their hair and starring dreamily at the continual traffic, are Hot Chip (from The House of DFA). At present critics are like seagulls on a ….um, hot chip, vying to be the first to laud them. And it’s easy to see why.
Their instruments are made with bits of old Casio calculators and their droll electronica is as playfull as kittens wrapped in balls of wool. Their metamorphosis, from quiet neighbourhood-watch 1st album to upbeat humour-toking 2nd, is similar to that of the ever-changing Goldfrapp, whom they recently supported at Brixton Academy in their own sawf Landan hood.
The album bursts into existence – with the multi-layered, genre-crossing ‘Careful’ – by thrashing out of the cocoon left by Aphex Twin’s uncomfortable clubland anthem, ‘Windowlicker’. It then jumps into a melancholic electro-funk ballad, ‘And I Was A Boy From School’, where a confessional melody pines, “We tried, but we didn’t have long, we try, but we don’t belong”.
‘Colours’ is a song so textually complex and yet so simple that it defines the present Hot Chip ethos: fragile, twee harmonising sprinkled with perculiar bleeps.
‘Over and Over’, the familiar pogo-inducing classic that teeters between the dirtiest of dance and the daftest of punk, introspectively proclaims the joys of dance music whilst delivering a cheeky nod to the repetative nature of fellow DFA Record noise monsters, The Rapture. Coiled up on its plush carpet of beats is the best monkey-with-a-minature-cymbal wordplay that you’ve heard since the Big Blowout Sale at your local bric-a-brac shop. The intro chimes in ‘Over and Over’ appear again on the album’s title track, ‘The Warning’. This Patrick Bateman psychopath of a garage song possesses pleasantries (“Excuse me sir I’m lost”)and threats (“Hot Chip will break your legs, snap off your head”)in ironic equal parts. ‘No Fit State’ is similarly fusional. Its great barrier of synths and lo-fi funk combination has the pride of the Pet Shop Boys and the girth of Gary Numan (especially ‘Cars’).
However, the best, and possibly-overlooked, track on the album is ‘Tchaparian’, an obvious stripping down and slow-tempo washout of the Armand Van Helden remix of Britney’s ‘Toxic’.
Buy it if you dream of robotic livestock grazing in a field of silican whilst the movie ‘Tron’ plays on their LCD udders.
If it were a soundtrack to a life not of this world, it would be R2D2’s quieter, more relaxing years following the Return of the Jedi. Otherwise 7 out of 10.
Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers (XL)
Jack was a White Stripe. His friends, Jack and Pat, were Greenhornes. Another friend, Brendan, was just, well, Brendan. One day Jack got tired of making black and red cowboy outfits with his ex-wife as well as making babies with his supermodel current-wife. So he climbed down from his almighty cloud and descended the Mountain of Coca Cola-sponsored Cash. Gathering together his merry band of white and green-striped hornes he accidentally (on purpose) locked all four of them together in a house (pretending he had forgotten his keys).
For weeks and weeks they went without television, telephones and telenewspapers. The only way to be released, according to Jack’s dominating rule, was to be voted out one by one. His friends didn’t like this much and instead spoke with the omnipotent Jack about the possibility of creating a supergroup instead – a supergroup that wasn’t actually a supergroup but, “a new band made up of old friends”. He agreed and they set about creating an album that paid homage to every genre known personally to them.
Then, they settled on a name: The Raconteurs. For them it was all about relating to the “skilled in telling anecdotes” dictionary definition. (Ironically, the name was “deliberately subverted” in Australia where a jazz-funk band had put dibs on it already and didn’t want to do swapsies. So Jack and the gang also became The Saboteurs).
Finally, after Jack released them, they went live. Their first airing was at rock and roll’s eye-of-the-storm (and hometown of one of their main influences – the Beatles): Liverpool.
Their diverse bag of pick n’ mix delights produces razor-sharp psychedelia, black-soul blues, staple garage rock and some late sixties stoner-riffs. Plus, it doesn’t fall too far from the pop tree, despite having a shiny metal surface.
The worthy-of-mention’s are as follows:
‘Steady As She Goes’ – a catchy, free-wheeling repetative melody that will stay high in the singalong stakes for a time to come and is a perfect indication that Brendan’s upbeat pop has no intention of being overshadowed by Jack’s minimalist blues. However, Jack gets his deep south rocks off in ‘Blue Veins’, where his treacle screech aggrandises the gutsy rhythm, reverse guitars and haunting piano. ‘Broken Boy Soldier’ lingers on the stalker side of Led Zeppelin and, despite obvious references to the guilty pleasures of The Who, is a top piece of atmospheric glam-rock. However, the track that can be baptised as the album’s best is surely ‘Intimate Secretary’ – an impenetrable mass of punchy guitars bricked up with harmonic, idiosyncratic lyrical nonsense.
Buy it if… after taking one look at this creepy bunch, you’re reaching for your favourite dog-based animation quote…“I would’ve got away with it if it wasn’t for you pesky kids.”
If it were a trip it would be a kalaidescopic 37-minute journey thanks to a small sheet of acid your Dad stashed in the sleeve of one of his favourite LPs (LPs? What are they?!) some 20 years previous, which you then found whilst stumbling around in your parent’s dusty old attic. Otherwise 8 out of 10.