Album Reviews

Hot Chip – Freakout/Release

(Domino) UK release date: 19 August 2922

A pleasing, mature release that begins with a vintage mobile disco vibe before progressing to restrained and introspective keyboard contemplations

Hot Chip - Freakout/Release Boogie is long overdue a mainstream revival. The misleadingly monikered microgenre added a bit of gutsy R&B bounce to sleek disco rhythms as the ’70s bled into the ’80s, and then played them in such an intensely uptight, airtight fashion you’d think they were planning on sending 12 inch singles to the Mariana Trench.

What admirer of early Foals’ buttoned-down pop wouldn’t get a finicky frisson from Earth, Wind & Fire’s cover of Got To Get You Into My Life? How many people nodding along to the airbrushed sounds of Everything Everything wouldn’t find something to like in the antiseptic rubber bounce of Heatwave or Pure Energy? Hot Chip might be leading the revival by building Down, the opening track from their eighth album, around a loop from boogie obscurity More Than Enough, by Universal Togetherness Band.

To keep the wryly knowing groove going, Eleanor comes on like an early ’80s Kool & The Gang cut at an alternative universe school disco, whereas the title track is chunkier, opening with the repeated robo-mantra “Wild beast/ Freakout, release” – imagine the backing singers from Eddy Grant‘s Electric Avenue trying to remake Fatboy Slim’s Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat and you’re halfway there – and ending with a delicious Chicago house descending synth line; it even has a slight similarity in the vocal line to We Are Family, just to retain the vintage mobile disco vibe. But this opening trio is a trick, wrong-footing you into an album, not of retro-bangers, but of restrained and introspective keyboard contemplations. Despite the Dionysian flavour of the title, Freakout/Release could more accurately be titled Comedown/Regret, wistfully noting the passing of the good times.

The lyrics return to this post-party melancholia again and again, the mojo having fled suddenly, pop euphoria having been replaced by the quotidian: “Music used to be escape, now I can’t escape it” (Freakout/Release); “We raise our glasses in remembrance/ When only yesterday we took our chance” (Not Alone); “Ain’t it hard to be funky when you’re not feeling sexy?” (Hard To Be Funky). Hot Chip’s previous album was entitled A Bath Full Of Ecstasy, but this one is more like a cold shower of middle-aged regret, with a good splurge of Radox Pomegranate, Hibiscus & Remorse exfoliating body scrub.

Not that the music is cold, for there’s a swirled-brandy warmth to these songs which rescues them from self-pity. Broken has a stately resignation which is part Pet Shop Boys, part barely remembered Canadian synth-poppers Kon Kan, Miss The Bliss is Frazier Chorus chilling out post-club, and Not Alone has a soft fuzziness which is not far from current festival faves Glass Animals, but the clearest sonic touchstone is The Beloved (albeit without the loved-up, starry-eyed grins). The whole album is perfect earbud fodder, well balanced and rich, and with plenty of interesting elements to pick out on later listens – check the dirty, dirty bass break in the title track, or the freeze-dried Chic guitar of Hard To Be Funky. Only The Evil That Men Do falls flat, trying to be a woozy shuffle but coming across as a messy, half-recalled Seal song (though maybe we’re still smarting from discovering it wasn’t an Iron Maiden cover).

Out Of My Depth, however, is an outstanding closer, an affirmatory torch song over epically phased keys which owes a little to 21st century Sparks, and even shares some DNA with the theatrical valediction of Queen’s The Show Must Go On. With a promise to “make time my only enemy”, perhaps this song makes peace with the ruefulness and contrition of the preceding eight tracks. This album is a pleasing, mature release, though a little more freakout wouldn’t have gone amiss.

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Hot Chip – Freakout/Release
Hot Chip – A Bath Full Of Ecstasy
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