Hot Chip’s biggest asset is, and pretty much always has been, the ability to use dance music as a platform for more experimental pursuits. Like most other European dance groups favored by the American hipster set, they tend to fall into cycles of singles and remixes; often they’ll do as many DJ sets in a city as they will actual shows. It works to their benefit in that they find their crowd with zero effort, but then take their albums wherever they want once a strong single takes hold. Most other indie-darling dance groups struggle with the album format, which is admittedly tricky when every song hovers around the same tempo and features a similar range of sounds. How often does one hear a non-’D.A.N.C.E.’ Justice track, or a Knife song other than ‘Heartbeats’? It has a lot do with how people access these records — almost always in social situations, where one wants to hear the most familiar song possible, or where a DJ is choosing it anyway — but it’s all the more notable when the act in question makes a conscious effort to do more with their music than coax people to the floor.
In Hot Chip’s case it’s a freedom with sounds and a simple, oddly affecting songwriting style. They can be playful without always being dancey; they can occasionally be dancey without being playful. ‘Shake a Fist’ is almost too obvious a first single: lots of buildup and release, lots of cheap, laser-noise sound effects. But the record covers different moods, too — there’s the slow, patient title track played mostly as a straight piano ballad. Then there’s ‘We’re Looking For a Lot of Love’, a dark, whooshing song that’s more night driving music than dance. Tracks like these serve as a reminder that Hot Chip came of age in London to see all different kinds of electronic music take hold — trip-hop, Beta Band-type sound collage stuff, lo-fi garage rap, etc. — enough styles that combine to make something far more substantial than your average indie dance single.