Indefatigably pleasant, Hot Chip have long specialised in steady-state club pop, powered more by melancholy than abandon. The title track of their eighth album, the promisingly named Freakout/Release, declares a shift towards proper shit-losing catharsis. “Wild, beast, freakout, release!” growls a vocoder as some stark electro-funk lurks beneath. A distorted guitar line completes the picture of a band throwing well-appointed tastefulness to the wind, querying their own love of music into the bargain. Co-producers Soulwax are audibly in the studio, egging them on.
Spoiler alert: it’s false advertising. Sure, some strides are made towards messiness. On Down, the disco-funk album opener, singer Joe Goddard swaps his usual evolved restraint for something like tongue-in-cheek libidinality. But Hard to Be Funky, a lovely, downtempo glide that features the guest vocals of Lou Hayter, once of New Young Pony Club, nails Hot Chip’s dilemma with self-deprecating humour. “It’s hard to be funky when you’re not feeling sexy,” Goddard notes. “And it’s hard to feel sexy when you’re not very funky.”
Hot Chip having produced a record for Ibibio Sound Machine last year, you would have hoped some of that band’s capacity to mix bolder elements with cool production aplomb might have rubbed off. Instead, they continue to live and die by the watercolour synth wash. It’s a good job they’re masters of the form – as Broken, this album’s crystalline ballad, proves.