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Hot Chip - One Life Stand

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Artist: Hot Chip

Album: One Life Stand

Label: EMI

Review date: Feb. 9, 2010

The vague adjective synth-pop is often attached to reviews of Hot Chip; let’s propose today that, along with LCD Soundsystem and, to a lesser degree, Cut Copy, the (New) New Romanticism tag hangs a little better around their stalky British necks.

Synth-pop isn’t inaccurate, just facile. New Romanticism in the 1980s was marked not just by instrumentation, but by sexual ambition (just look at its name). Simply put, it was a blurring. To proponents, New Romanticism was an urgent experiment in working to loosen capitalism’s oppressive gender boundaries. To detractors, musicians like Ultravox and Heaven 17 were just dilettantes.

We have to unpack One Life Stand a bit to understand how its ambition operates. There are, to begin with, some tracks so fine that there is little more to say, except “listen,” including the opening “Thieves in the Night.” Tasteful, restrained, fun, catchy, all that. Usually editors tell you to go easy on the adjectives – maybe we should try reining in the nouns?

This is one of a number of exuberant pieces that, for most, will be the album’s raison d’être: inhibition kryptonite without the sleaze. This makes up about half the record.

Hot Chip want to reconcile good times with chivalry, like the sensitive thugs from those books. And so the sublimely dark title track “One Life Stand” (which all but quotes the synthesizer from Laid Back’s “White Horse”), rather than taking spies, stockings, and heroin as its retro-chic (reactionary) themes, is about commitment. The next song, “Brothers,” is a frank paean to male friendships, possibly those within the band? “Slush,” a piano ballad, could have been written by the Penguins – or, more likely, James Murphy.

But what this reconciliation suggests is that Hot Chip want to broker a kind of Middlesex between disco’s blissful ephemerality and an indie-affiliated emotional maturity. Such a mixture is coded as faggy because it’s antagonistic — on both ends — to the “Jersey Shore” gloss on dance club culture. I think that’s the point.

"Thieves in the Night" (Carl Craig PCP Remix)

There is also an excellent remix of “Thieves in the Night” by Carl Craig, one of the modern luminaries of the very same brokering. New Romantic is blurring looks and sounds different than it did 25 years ago, but it’s still around, and still has a point to make.

By Ben Tausig

Other Reviews of Hot Chip

The Warning

Made in the Dark

In Our Heads

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