From the beginning, riffing on R&B tropes has been part of Hot Chip’s program, though the London quartet’s soft production edges can make that hard to hear for Americans more accustomed to R&B’s harder-edged beats and sonic tricks. So has the group’s prankster sensibility, in which a lyric such as “I’m like Stevie Wonder, but I can see things” (on the 2005 debut Coming On Strong) or a maneuver like baldly rewriting R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” as an ode to love-as-wrestling (see 2008’s Made In The Dark) could make things just sound emotionally insecure.
But while One Life Stand’s mindset is Hot Chip’s most overtly serious, the album is also its most musically accomplished. The melodies are Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard’s longest-lined, and the melodies often unfurl beautifully—the tune is the showpiece of “Slush,” a six-and-a-half-minute piano ballad. There are still some tongue-in-cheek musical touches: The mock-gothic synth-organ of “I Feel Better” echoes recent records by Florence And The Machine and Bat For Lashes, while the computerized verses make 2010 the unofficial Year Of The Neo-Alt Auto-Tune. But the title track is Hot Chip’s surest disco update yet: The killer chorus makes it sound like a hip wedding staple. And on “Thieves In The Night,” Taylor’s delicate falsetto gives the song’s climax—Taylor repeating “Happiness is what we all want”—an unexpected emotional heft. If Hot Chip is kidding, they aren’t letting it show.