Album Reviews: The Warning by Hot ChipHot Chip is one of those bands that's clearly learning on the job. Their first album, Coming On Strong, was a charmingly geeky, lo-fi exercise in British white-boy funk, full of primitive beat programming and cheeky lyrics about 20-inch rims and shiny Escalades delivered with decidedly un-gangsta falsettoes and deadpan, laddish drawls. But their second full-length album, The Warning, tones down the geekiness in favor of genuinely well-crafted grooves and even the occasional straight-faced ballad. It's a huge step forward for a band that used to flirt dangerously with novelty act status.
The much improved programming skills of lead Hot Chippers Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard are on full display right from the get-go, as The Warning opens with a very Art of Noisy blast of stuttering rhythms called "Careful," followed quickly by one of the album's catchiest and most danceable grooves on "And I Was a Boy From School." "Colours" and "So Glad to See You" find the band delving into the wistful synth-pop of Postal Service, while lead single "Over and Over" is a big, robust dance-pop anthem complete with nonsensical spelling-bee chants ("S-E-X-I-N-G-C-A-S-I-O") and a guitar solo -- a short one, but still. This is not the same band behind the sloppy, lurching synthesizers of "Crap Kraft Dinner."
Fans of Hot Chip's cheekiness won't be completely disappointed -- the title track finds Taylor and Goddard seductively murmuring sweet nothings like, "Hot Chip will break your legs/And snap off your head," right before a bridge littered with squelching keys straight outta 1983. But it's a pleasure to hear them finally learning to balance their snarky sense of humor with genuinely pretty slow numbers like "Look After Me" and darker, more atmospheric tunes like "No Fit State," which is what the last New Order album should have sounded like. Highly recommended. - Andy Hermann
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