Every once in a while, an artist’s first album will be completely ignored by the public at large, and it’s only their second that gets any attention. So it is with Hot Chip, whose wonderfully mellow debut Coming on Strong appeared in 2004, but was instantly forgotten.
So in 2006, they reappeared, satisfactorily reinvented, with The Warning, which, for the most part, is an extremely good album. In fact, its main problem is that it opens with the dreadful Careful. If they were trying to alienate the people who had bought their first album, or perhaps to scare anyone who thought this might be an album worth purchasing, this would have been an unabashed success. But it wasn’t then, and it still isn’t now – it’s just plain bad.
Fortunately, Boy from School (or, to give it its full album title, And I Was a Boy from School) comes next, and lifts the mood immediately. Perhaps for the first time in their career – and definitely not for the last time – they had come up with something quite exceptional. Even if there were nothing else on here, this album would be worth buying for the second track alone.
But there is, and third single Colours comes next, harking back a little more to the mood of their first release. It isn’t really traditionally catchy, but you will almost certainly find yourself singing along by the second or third chorus.
With songs as good as these on their breaking release, it isn’t difficult to see how Hot Chip have come to be quickly regarded as both groundbreaking and legendary.
Even their quirkier side is far from absent, as lead single and live favourite Over and Over commences with the words, “laid back? I’ll give you laid back,” which I’ve always imagined (admittedly with absolutely zero justification) must be a reaction to the press reviews of Coming on Strong. And the “K-I-S-S-I-N-G” part is, of course hilarious and brilliant at the same time.
The disco stylings of (Just Like We) Breakdown follow, before the daft but entirely lovely Tchaparian, complete with bendy synth sounds, a heavy Prince influence, and sampled cats (OK, some of that may not be true, but I hope it is).
Aside from the first track, the worst this album gets is when it’s just “nice”. Again, drawing on their experience with the debut release, Look After Me is nice. Actually, it’s very nice – I think my expectations were just a little high after the rest of the songs on here.
For a couple of songs, we find ourselves very much back in the territory of the debut release – very silly songs with extremely “laid back” music. The title track warns us that Hot Chip will break our legs, and then the livelier Arrest Yourself returns to the funkier 1980s influences. So Glad to See You presents us with a vocoder vocal and a slightly too uptempo drum pattern for its own good.
Picking things up again right at the end is the adorable final track No Fit State. This is what you’re looking for from Hot Chip – a catchy, silly, and memorable pop song, with retro synth lines and superficially awkward vocals. What a wonderful way to finish the album.
Except it isn’t – hidden bonus track Won’t Wash appears right at the end, a pleasant piece with wind chimes and gentle strumming, closing things off for good.
Their next release, by far their most successful, Made in the Dark, would see them enjoying worldwide success nearly a decade after their original formation, but was nowhere near as accomplished as this. It may not be their debut, but The Warning is an extremely good album.
You can still find The Warning at all major retailers.