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New Build - Yesterday Was Lived and Lost

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Artist: New Build

Album: Yesterday Was Lived and Lost

Label: Lanark

Review date: Apr. 2, 2012

Yep, it’s another Hot Chip side project, this time starring “multi-instrumentalist” Al Doyle and synth staffer Felix Martin (not to mention LCD Soundsystem engineer Tom Hopkins). Neither sings much during their day job, but Doyle cops the mic plenty in New Build. And, goddamn, does he establish himself.

We’re only a couple of months out from Joe Goddard’s first full-length outing under the auspices of the pervasively jokey 2 Bears, and the earlier tracks on New Build’s Yesterday Was Loved and Lost also retain some of Hot Chip’s hallmark sarcastic charm. “Medication” brings some po-mo “Young Americans” R&B swagger to its conflicted riff on pharmacology. “Misery Loves Company” hides its self-destructive despair in the sort of pitch-perfect post-house raveup that makes Hot Chip go down easy even at its bleakest.

But New Build is a far different beast from 2 Bears. It’s more like a trained seal taking pained and ruthless stock of its lot. Doyle never leans into a joke or a gimmick, instead heading full-tilt into the pervasive sense of depression that always made Hot Chip’s all-pervasive, bone-deep knowledge of the last 40 years of dance music translate into great bittersweet pop.

On “Misery Loves Company,” as his narrator rolls up to the party and has a few drinks, Doyle insists, “Don’t need to see how it goes / I already know.” Sure enough, Yesterday Was Loved and Lost follows the rise and fall of a hedonist with piercing precision. The lyrics start self-consciously cheeseball (“Steady as I start to lose control / It’s not good for the body / But its good for the soul”), turn John Hughes mushball at the right moment, as the focus changes from self-indulgence to human relations (the ardent synth-ballad “Miranda, Be My Guide”), and then get as dark as a grinding coke crash (the exquisitely alienated “Do You Not Feel Loved?”). Near the end, our hero is “finding reasons for an easy life,” recording the natural order of party-personhood with a cryptic, calmly aching detachment.

In its naked self-awareness and paradoxical high-status humor, it’s immediately universal. And none of that would matter were it not such a bone-deep-perfect dance-pop record. From the audacious soul-i-cisms of “Medication” to the four-on-the-floor pulse that anchors the perverse melancholia of “Do You Not Feel Loved?” to the African-tourist Talking Heads funk of “The Third One,” it’s an encyclopedia of rhythmic assimilation, perfectly executed, nary a lovingly adopted concept out of place. Catchy as hell, too.

By Emerson Dameron

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