Hot Chip have always been one of the best balancing acts around. Twin vocalists, not literally, Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard compare and contrast with scissor-sharp clarity-one’s butter, one’s bread. Taylor in particular evokes the ironic and the earnest at the same time. I don’t know how he does that. Likewise Hot Chip’s regular simultaneity gets the silly and the straight-faced to the table without pre-conditions. I don’t know how they do that.
Conceptually One Life Stand may be more of the same but it’s Hot Chip’s deepest and most affecting work yet. “Thieves In The Night” opens the record with “baby I’ve lost you here in the crowd/open your arms I want to be found,” which is a line they would have annihilated on The Warning. On “I Feel Better” it’s “how did we get ourselves so lost?” which is less about self-loathing I guess. Then again that whole song’s pretty much Auto-tuned.
But actual lyrics aren’t really what I mean about new depth or old balance. The mixing on One Life Stand is sublime; perfect pitches of reverb and atmosphere make everything way more luxurious and windswept than usual. “Brothers” is a pretty lame conceit (something about playing Xbox) that’s crying out loud for a parody video but the orchestration, ginned up to within an inch of its life, is too pretty to hate. The hippies will be all over it but oh well. “I Feel Better” is lush and symphonic and I really don’t want to hear any more shit about Auto-tune. Make lemonade, people. “We deserve what we get/when you hold me/I feel better” goes the lyric and I won’t try to improve on it.
The title track, the one that immediately became favorite song ever for the kinds of girls who run around with DJs (“tell me do you stand by your man?,” natch) so as a result you heard it a lot even before the remixers got a hold of it, really is Hot Chip at their loopy, toothy greatest. It’s not as melodic and syncopated as “Ready For The Floor” or as fantastically eroto-wobbled as “One Pure Thought” but the drums and bass are spotless, the joviality weak-kneed.
“Alley Cats” is the real underrated cut here. Full of B3ish organ and plucked bass, it’s a melancholy, minor-keyed case for domesticity (“two people are alley cats/ blossom, bloom“) that sounds almost like an early National sketch except, y’know, without that guy. Taylor and Goddard sound so in love. “Take It In,” meanwhile, is one of the most elegiac closing tracks since “My Body Is A Cage,” sending a guitar twist and neatly-shuffled drums up against layered choir-like vocals for maximum theatricality. “Take my heart and keep it close to you/ take it in” only sounds like snark if you Auto-tune pretty much your whole parasympathetic nervous system. “Take It In” counts generally back toward the record itself; it’s a grower, not a shower. Balance on that.
Video: “One Life Stand”