Coming On Strong

Coming On Strong

Hot Chip

Beach Party

John Peel, a man not always as rated an authority on these matters as he should be, noted at the height of the Fugees' fame that the threesome's charm was that they always sounded as if they were slightly making things up as they went along, which may be fairly common practice in jazz, but, let's be honest, hasn't really found much crossover currency as a masterplan before or since. Little wonder, really, since those bands that have dabbled in it have generally done themselves no favours (think, if you will, of the hidden track on Ash's '1977' or, worse still, that Stone Roses "jam"), but that's what comes of dabbling. Hot Chip, on the other hand, seem intent on building an entire career out of not really knowing where any of their tracks are going to go once they started. Foolish? God, yes, but what an effort...

Very much in their favour, of course, is that, while they're somewhat random with their focus, they're never guilty of simply fobbing the listener off with scratchy sketches masquerading as art. No, as you might expect from a band that namecheck both Prince and Yo La Tengo, the Chip are very much a pop band, albeit a curiously co-ordinated one. The 80s loom large in their lives, with the recent 'Down With Prince' single sporting the neo-industrial thwack chic of classic 400 Blows (ask yer anoraky folks, if need be), 'The Beach Party' alluding to the rupturous chug of Flash And The Pan's hypnotically bizarre top tenner 'Waiting For A Train', and 'Crap Kraft Dinner' collapsing into the kind of sax manoeuvring last heard from a miming Rob Lowe in St Elmo's Fire, but, as has so often been the case these last couple of years, this is more than mere retro posturing for its own sake. Lyrically, they're an intriguing hybrid of the eccentric and the aspirational, and elements such as the contrast between the faux braggadocio, Anglocentric rusticity and tender electronic throbbing of 'You Ride, We Ride, In My Ride', the shameless romance of 'Baby Said' and the squalid summery kick of 'Playboy' have charms that are very much their own. "Slapcore" they call this, and, while it's nothing as out-of-the-box new as that, 'Coming On Strong' is still a joyously audacious opening salvo. Phat, inevitably, and not short on its own brand of cool either...

Iain Moffat

reviewed on 13 May 2004

Levi's OnesToWatch tour
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