Switched On – Hot Chip: Freakout/Release (Domino)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

When Hot Chip reassembled after the enforced lockdowns of the Coronavirus pandemic, they found a rich vein of creativity. Much of the inspiration for this came from their live cover of Beastie Boys’ Sabotage, a setlist favourite that explores the idea of being out of control in dance music.

With guitarist Al Doyle putting together a new studio in East London for the band to use, they set about losing control together and making their next album. The idea of losing control, however, extends to human emotions and specifically those that were on the edge in those dark years. That means while some of the music on this album is slower, its lyrical content and resolve is deeper too.

What’s the music like?

Multilayered. Hot Chip are masters at making pop music that works brilliantly on its own terms out front, but which has a number of different messages when you delve deeper into it.

Freakout/Release is no exception, addressing issues such as confidence within ageing, the changing habits of consumption in music and emotional fragility.

The album struts confidently onto the floor with Down, immediately showing the double meaning potential, but giving a tonic to the album which is immediately reinforced with the warm-hearted Eleanor. By this point the music has a feel reminiscent of a returning old friend, but soon the tone changes.

The title track has much more anguish about it, and a darker tone. “Music used to be a love, now people leave it or take it” is the pointed observation. The clever wordplay on Hard To Be Funky, featuring Lou Hayter, reveals a vulnerable centre. “Ain’t it hard to be funky, when you’re not feeling sexy?”, go the words, then immediately, “And it’s hard to feel sexy when you’re not very funky”.

Not Alone draws on the band’s softer side, a warm blanket of a song. “Anxiety can only kill a man if he always turns away the helping hand”, sings Alexis Taylor, “I still long for your voice”. After this the album takes an assured, soulful voice towards the finish. A particular highlight is The Evil That Men Do, where Cadence Weapon offers a great complement to Taylor’s vocal.

Does it all work?

Yes, it does – bringing the realisation that Hot Chip always secure more emotional depth than your average ‘dance’ album. The band knit together beautifully, with warm soulful flourishes making this a safe place to explore emotions, fears and – ultimately – togetherness.

Is it recommended?

Unhesitatingly. It’s great to have Hot Chip back, and with every album they become a more complete outfit, both musically and lyrically. The dancefloor is still the centre of their attention, but the recognition and ultimate acceptance of the problems life can bring around it is beautifully realised.

Listen

Buy

You can explore purchase options for Freakout/Release at the Piccadilly Records website

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