There was a time when putting on a record at a house party you were hosting was an easy proposition. The Thievery Corporation filled that role perfectly, earning major cool points for the host while providing a positive backdrop to the chill party atmosphere. But things have changed. Throwing on The Mirror Conspiracy now smacks of a desperation move to get the lady/gentleman you're mackin' on into the sack. The Books would marginalize too many of your yuppie friends. LCD Soundsystem is solid maybe, but isn't there something irrefutable, something that would get all guests into the proper mood? There is: the glitch-soul of Hot Chip's Coming on Strong.
Much has been said about the extensive influences packed sardine-like into Hot Chip's debut full-length. Listening to the record is a thorough deconstruction of pop music from the 1960s on up, but despite all the variety there is never a cobbled, messy feel. At the core of Hot Chip's ethos is a heavy lean on electronically enhanced soul and hip-hop, light on the "Yes, I know I'm a white-boy" cheap quirkiness that the Streets and others employ and an earnestness tempered by self-aware lyrics and absence of real bravado.
Frontmen Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor show off their range musically and lyrically with the help of their supporting cast. "Crap Kraft Dinner" starts at a near-dirge pace, with Taylor lamenting, "All the people I love are here, all the people I love are drunk." It picks up with several layers of beats slicing in while Taylor's falsetto and Goddard's baritone duet in the chorus, and later the song slips into something more comfortable for a sexy, sax-filled outro. The android-funk on "Down With Prince" feels like a runaway child from Beck's Midnight Vultures given a very fitting shelter on this foster record. It's not all blue-eyed soul, though; "You Ride, We Ride, In My Ride" and "Baby Said" show a reach toward the electro-folk sound of former Astralwerks label chums Beta Band.
Coming on Strong is one smooth record; even with all the glitch, all the bleeps and bloops, and all of the genre bending, it never leaves any residue behind. So at ease, good host, the music is covered; now turn your attention to that stanky brie.