The appeal of Hot Chip remains, for me, one of modern pop's more unfathomable mysteries, their particular strand of electronic music lacking the grace of Kraftwerk, the bluff homeliness of the original 1980s electropop outfits, and the questing self-possession of Aphex Twin – indeed, virtually all of the more positive, engaging possibilities furnished by the synthesiser.
Their brand of lumpen electronic pop labours over basic stratagems, one's heart-sinking anticipation of the inevitable worsened by the length of time the inevitable takes to arrive. The opener "Thieves In The Night" is typical: a staple 4/4 thump, waiting until the reedy high-register vocal enters before successive criss-crossing synth lines set up a passable groove. The single "One Life Stand" is a similarly brittle, prefabricated affair, despite the steel pans doubling one of the synths. Elsewhere, the self-consciously sentimental "Slush" is a clumsy waltz, just about redeemed by the addition of Joe Goddard's baritone murmur to Alexis Taylor's nervous high-register vocal (which at times resembles a less flamboyant version of Sparks' Russell Mael), while "Alley Cats" blends electric piano with slivers of guitar and counterpoint vocal lines, as it chases parallels between cats and humans. It's an album full of earnest endeavour, but lacking verve and creative zest.
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