For a group of musicians so committed to club culture lockdown must have come as a mild form of torture to Hot Chip. Now twenty years into their career, the group have an intimate connection with their audience, recontextualising club tropes into shimmering pop songs, both classic in construction and dazzlingly modern. New album ‘Freakout/Release’ is a conscious attempt to tap into their live energy for a post-lockdown environment, and while its bolshy thrills raise the temperature it perhaps lacks some of the striking emotional subtlety of their best work.
‘Down’ is a fine opener, the crunchy synths ripping apart the rulebook. ‘Eleanor’ twists and turns in new directions, while the title track is a volcanic eruption, the sound of Hot Chip simply cutting loose, and allowing their mutual trust to (hopefully) allow them to end at the same point of destination.
If the album can – at times – feel a little samey, two guest spots add new hues to Hot Chip’s mixture. Lou Hayter guests on the irresistible ‘Hard To Be Funky’ while Cadence Weapon’s turn on ‘The Evil That Men Do’ – the title is a Twin Peaks reference – offers another twist on the album’s central motif of grappling with performance energy.
Closing with the pensive ‘Out Of My Depth’, this new album is a punchy song cycle, one framed by Hot Chip’s mutual experiences. Yet it doesn’t quite out-shine some of their prior work – Alexis Taylor’s vocals are always worth experiencing, blessed as he is with one of his generation’s most striking pop instruments, yet ‘Freakout / Release’ doesn’t tug at the heartstrings in the same fashion as ‘Flutes’, say. Perhaps that’s to review what the album isn’t, however, rather what it is – in the end, you’re left with 11 excellent pop songs from one of British music’s most reliable forces.
Words: Robin Murray