Hot Chip's Bath Full of Ecstasy: Pop Conscious, Weird, and Danceable
Listen to Hot Chip’s new record, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, on Spotify
Over the years Hot Chip has stood out for their odd dichotomies. They are nerdy yet cool. Poppy yet dancey. Sentimental with real dancefloor chutzpah. Lead vocalist Alexis Taylor’s plaintive vocal style has always exuded an idiosyncratic blend of vulnerability, quirkiness, and a healthy dash of endearing coolness. Their best dance tunes, Over and Over being a prime example, are heartily remixable dancefloor dynamite, likely owing to sometime 2 Bears member Joe Goddard’s hefty production muscle. By the same token, their most melodic numbers are clever and emotive in equal measure, and capable of creating the songwriting depth necessary for a long lasting indie band.
Nineteen years since their inception, Hot Chip’s formula seems as sturdy and dependable as ever. A Bath Full of Ecstasy is without doubt Hot Chip at their off kilter, full spectrum, legitimately unique best. The second track, Spell, is a perfect example of the band’s juxtaposition. The opening is a stomping beat, hypnotically human monotone bassline, and some type of skittering, phased out vocal snippets in an authoritative dancefloor ready package. As the tune progresses, quick snaps and drops move the tune flawlessly forward until a bridge section changes the sonic narrative away from the party and towards something more thoughtful. The opening vocals of “Give me your lust\In me your trust\How will this twist\And make our tryst?” give way to “Like a spell you are under” repeated like a chant with new plinky synths dropping from the sky.
That gear shift engages into a completely new feel for the chorus: bumping bass gives way to smooth washes of synth pads and and bouncy boops to Taylor’s questioning lyric “And now I feel your curse\It’s more than I wanted\A memory in reverse\For ever haunted”
The back and forth continues for the rest of the tune, and indeed the album, as tunes shift from nouveau electronic slow dance doo wop feels (complete with sassy vocoder and drum break loops) on the title track, to big time tension and release dancefloor drops via a curious blend of 90s piano house and grinding 80s synth roller, on Hungry Child.
It’s hugely gratifying when an established band is able to craft a truly diverse group of songs in a unified style. Listen to Positive back to back with Clear Blue Skies. Same band, same studio, same instruments, same obvious songwriting prowess, and yet two songs miles apart in terms of execution. Positive’s bass sounds and acid arpeggiation are a driving backdrop set against the pleasant counterpoint of Taylor’s crystalline vocals and yet more (different) bouncy mid range synths. Comparatively, Clear Blue Skies is a drifting, washed out, indistinct tune with slightly atonal vocals, triumphant splashes, and inconstant bits and pieces of intriguing sonics dropped like easter eggs around the developing soundscape.
Written by James Nason