Hot Chip - The Warning

Alex Worsnip 22/05/2006

Rating: 4/5

Sometimes a band's second album is a difficult step for them. Other times (Radiohead, cLOUDDEAD) it takes things up to the next level in a way so masterful that it blows the debut out of the water. Such is the case with Hot Chip, whose first album 'Coming On Strong' was a bit of a novelty, with ironic lyrics set to not particularly developed beats. 'The Warning' is a leap miles forward, with their new sound fleshed out, warm and injecting their beats with an aching emotion not seen since Underworld's crossover hit 'Born Slippy'. The seamless fashion in which this is managed is on display most prominently on recent single 'Boy From School', a gorgeous ode to childhood loneliness punctuated by a thumping beat, swirling synths and Alexis Taylor's dreamy falsetto. It abounds throughout, though, with 'The Warning' underlaid by a fractured electronica beat and subtle, tinkling bells, somehow managing to deliver the lines 'Hot Chip will break your legs/snap off your head' as if it were the richest love poetry ever written. In truth, it would be disingenuous to suggest that this is their only trick: in fact the lyric writing has come on miles, retaining a sense of irony, but able to turn on the genuine emotion when they need to.

This isn't to say that they've lost their maverick side. Indeed, they've never sounded as crazed as on opener 'Careful', which is full of frantic, squelching bass and demented squalling, with a genuinely edgy techno sound emerging. The danceable side of their music has, in fact, become far more appealing: only a listen to lead single 'Over and Over' need prove this, with its crunching guitars and group vocals leading the most fleshed out exposition of this side of their music yet. Track after track is successful, though, proving its no red herring for the maturation of their sound. Their ability to combine beauty with beats makes them equally appealing to the indiekid and the technohead, but it also makes them unique and exciting. 'The Warning' is perhaps the best album of the year so far, and in 2004 few would have predicted such an occurrence, even those with sympathy for Hot Chip. I would say it was a surprise if it hadn't been for the fact that the first material from the album started emerging well over a year ago, slowly hinting that this was going to be something truly special. It certainly is.