Hot Chip - Freakout/Release Music Album Reviews

Hot Chip - Freakout/Release Music Album Reviews
Treating music as something like a homeopathic remedy, Freakout/Release joins doubt with deliverance over the cleansing pulse of a disco beat.

On the title track of Hot Chip’s eighth album, Alexis Taylor makes a startling confession: Music isn’t really doing it for him anymore. Against a claustrophobic backdrop of throbbing robo-disco, he frets, “Music used to be escape/Now I can’t escape it.” He runs down a litany of woes—music is ubiquitous, oppressive, ignorable—and arrives at a crisis of faith: “I’m losing my taste for this feeling/Give me a sign I can start to believe in.”

If this momentary crack in Taylor’s worldview is surprising, it’s because Hot Chip have always radiated the glow of kids eagerly biking home from the record store bearing the hottest 12" in the latest genre. Throw a dart at one of their lyric sheets, and you’re likely to hit a line about “a sound that resonates” or “the joy of repetition,” or a reference to lovers rock or Vanity 6. “Freakout/Release” is no different in that regard; the opening vocoder refrain evokes UK techno group LFO’s 2003 dancefloor bomb “Freak,” making it an easter egg for leftfield clubbers of a certain age.

Inspired in part by Hot Chip’s live cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” “Freakout/Release” is one of the loudest songs in the band’s catalog to date, and stylistically one of the most out of character. But it’s also the spiritual centerpiece of an album about grown-up aches wrapped in the unbridled energy of eternal youth. Treating music as something like a homeopathic remedy, Freakout/Release joins doubt with deliverance over the cleansing pulse of a disco beat.

This isn’t the first time they’ve sung about these kinds of themes; a quick skim of past reviews suggests that Hot Chip have been making their grown-up album since at least 2010’s One Life Stand. But Freakout/Release is clouded by specific pains, both societal and personal. Their last album, 2019’s A Bath Full of Ecstasy, was meant to simulate immersive bliss, but things didn’t quite work out; it was overshadowed by the death of co-producer Philippe Zdar, then a medical scare on tour; then, just nine months after the album’s release, nightlife came to a screeching halt, all that ecstatic bathwater going cold during the angst-ridden COVID-19 lockdowns.

Freakout/Release constitutes a reset. Much of the album is outwardly about pleasure: of dancing, of togetherness, of physical contact and sex. Recorded in the London studio that Al Doyle set up during the pandemic, it’s the first Hot Chip album to be written from scratch by the full band all in the same room, and its sound reflects that pooling of energies, full of exuberant dance rhythms and arrangements that burst at the seams. The opening “Down,” anchored by a roof-raising ’70s funk sample from the Universal Togetherness Band, is a life preserver tossed by a DJ into a sea of existential desperation. The rushing “Time” arrays a tick-tocking house groove in heart-in-mouth trance synths and laser zaps. Virtually every inch of tape seems to bend under the weight of all the things they throw at it. The audacious and exceptionally fun “Guilty” is a mid-tempo anthem that riffs on big-budget ’80s pop like Van Halen, Yes, and Peter Gabriel, as well as, obliquely, Tom Waits; the closing “Out of My Depth” starts out with a muted meditation on depression, but by the end it’s practically levitating, sounding like a soundclash between Spiritualized and Stereolab.

As boisterous as the grooves may get, the band’s lyrical preoccupations are overwhelmingly pensive. Taylor has said that his songwriting this time was inspired by getting older and seeing friends experiencing “the harder sides of life”—divorce, disease, suicide. Healing isn’t so much the album’s subtext as the IMAX-sized screen their ebullient sounds are projected on. “Hard to Be Funky,” which kicks off with one of the most dryly funny couplets in Taylor’s discography—“Ain’t it hard to be funky when you’re not feeling sexy/And it’s hard to feel sexy when you’re not very funky”—is part of a suite of songs, along with “Broken” and “Out of My Depth,” about the ripple effects of depression. “Miss the Bliss,” a companion piece to the title track, explicitly invokes the search for wholeness, linking dancing to solace via a gospel-fueled bridge: “You can heal if you’re wounded/You can heal anytime.”

This is hardly original terrain; for young and old alike, trauma is pop music’s lingua franca nowadays, to the extent that it’s become cliché. But Hot Chip, never ones to wallow, buoy their weightiest sentiments with provocative contrasts. “Eleanor” may be about separated families, yet their tale of “all-encompassing pain” rides a euphoric groove. Even the lyrics take a gleefully absurdist route to pathos: The chorus interpolates Edgar Allen Poe, and the bridge riffs on Samuel Beckett giving André the Giant a ride to school. Grief has rarely sounded like such a hoot.

Taylor claims that there are no ballads on the album, but he’s not quite right; “Not Alone” is one of the gentlest and most hopeful songs they’ve ever written. In the third verse, he hears a girl he “barely knew” play a cover of one of Hot Chip’s songs, “and in that moment turned my life around.” As he sings of darkness and heartache, his bandmates’ playing is hushed, reverent, luminous synths flickering in time with dreamily harmonized backing vocals. In tone and mood, “Not Alone” is the polar opposite of the title track, but it is also its companion: In “Freakout/Release,” Taylor goes looking for a sign that music still matters, and with “Not Alone,” he finds it. At its root, he suggests, a song can be a kind of spiritual beacon, the shared experience of music a form of redemption. “It holds me I—holds me I—holds me I have no choice,” he sings in elliptical electronic loops at the song’s conclusion, his voice as pure as a beam of light. “All the rest is noise.”

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Hot Chip - Freakout/Release Music Album Reviews Hot Chip - Freakout/Release Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on August 30, 2022 Rating: 5


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