Hot Chip: Made in the Dark

Hot Chip's third album offers moments of sparkling pop-dance perfection -- and some unexpectedly emotional material as well.

Hot Chip

Made in the Dark

Label: EMI
US Release Date: 2008-02-05
UK Release Date: 2008-02-04

For many listeners, the most memorable lyric from Hot Chip's amazing third album may be this: "Made in the Dark by Hot Chip, coming soon". A robotic voice chirps the words over each track of the leaked advance copy, usually at the most inopportune moment -- when the vocals enter for the first time, or when a chorus kicks off. If you've only heard those tracks, if you've lived with these new songs graffitied with corporate paranoia -- not to get all high and mighty -- but this one time you owe it to the music to pay for it, for once.

What makes Made in the Dark great isn't any overarching concept, some grand theme that ties the whole thing together. In fact, the London group's third album is more fragmented than ever -- the songwriting duties, split between singer/producers Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor, reveal a markedly varied set of influences and aesthetics. But the more time you spend with the album, the less that seems to matter. You come to value each song on its own merits. From the club bangers "Shake a Fist" and "Ready for the Floor" to the handful of ballads (there are more than two), each presents an almost perfectly-conceived singular idea, stacked up next to each other like books on a bookshelf.

I want to spend a bit of time discussing one song in particular: "Wrestlers". It's probably my favourite song on the whole album. Here, finally, Hot Chip have penned a worthy successor to "Playboy", the broke-up driving anthem from their debut that worked both as indie-hip and subtly emotional dance pop. Nothing on The Warning had that sparkle, although the melancholia of "And I Was a Boy from School" became (for many) a valued companion for a certain mood. "Wrestlers", though, takes "Playboy"'s casual wit and compartmentalizes it, cycling through styles with the delight of a kid in a toy store. So we get part of a Spoon-esque piano blues-rock song and part of a cartoon video-game fight. The group recycles a melody from The Warning -- the line "I learned all I know from watching the wrestling" is a carbon copy of the "Every time I wake up" line from "Look After Me" -- and it doesn't matter. The soulful pentatonic melody's now a signature, an expected pleasure.

But not to discriminate against the other tracks on Made in the Dark. At each turn the album brings up a new mood, a newly-faceted visage of the band. The now-familiar elements of Hot Chip's sound are everywhere in evidence -- the smooth soul vocals, the unexpected melodies, the pots-n-pans production. It's all re-tooled into new, captivating music. The group re-uses rhythms and melodic fragments in such a way as to create both a strongly individual aesthetic and the thrill of the familiar: the vocal line of "Bendable Poseable", for example, is similar to the chugging background of "Hold On", so that you half expect the vocals from the first song to return.

The balladry on this album may put some listeners off at first. The group's gone waaay balladeer. On "Whistle for Will" there are soft synth pads, little else (hardly any percussion, even), and on "The Privacy of Our Love" it's finger clicks and a somber piano. Hot Chip had some songs that approached ballads on The Warning, but they were cloaked in innovative electronic effects that became those songs' focal point. But the new album finds them in a more confident mood -- they just let the slower songs stand on their own. And the limpid result is "Made in the Dark", a heartbreaking elegy that you have to hear, if you haven't already.

It's too early in the year, everyone's too tired from the glut of year-end lists, to begin throwing out superlatives. But you wonder how high Hot Chip might climb if they released their albums not in February, but in October. Regardless of release date, Made in the Dark is a great album, varied and surprisingly heartfelt. Hiccups surrounding the album leak aside, this one's certainly worth seeking out the old fashioned way, in the aisles of your local record store.







The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.


Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.


Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.


Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.


Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.


Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.


John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.