The terms "electro-soul," "glitch-funk" and "indie-dance" have each been implemented in the hopes of pithily explaining the British duo Hot Chip, but none of those really works. With The Warning, the band again forces listeners to drop the safety of labeling and comparisons with other bands.
The Warning explores the halls of contradictions and is able to successfully deceive us into believing that those contradictions are, and should be, connected. Compared to the band's 2005 debut, Coming on Strong, members Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor have made significant changes within Hot Chip, and those changes are evident on this album. The fun hasn't been drained from the new record, but the duo explores the slower and darker aspects of electronic music. Those who were expecting a dance party won't be disappointed, but The Warning comprises a number of slower, adroitly maneuvered songs.
This ability to pass contradiction off as accordance is prominent on the title track. Starting first with soft glockenspiel notes (eerily similar to Sigur Rós' EP Ba Ba/Ti Ki/Do Do), the song seamlessly becomes a delicate, yet violent, threat: "This a warning, I spell it out for you/ Hot Chip will break your legs, snap off your head/ Hot Chip will put you down under the ground."
Goddard's vocals have taken more of a backseat on this record, possibly because the less serious elements have been toned down (and Goddard is the one, we can suspect, with the better sense of humor), his contribution to "And I Was a Boy From School" is wonderful. The pair trade vocal duties, dropping the energy just to raise it up again like a momentous Morrissey song. One the album's best parts comes during one of the final sections of the song, when they sing "I got, I got lost/ You said this was the way back."
The singles "Over & Over" and "Boy From School" got my hopes up, but The Warning not only met my expectations, but also circumvented them, redirected their focus down the dark back roads of a shifting soundtrack, and left me disorientated and lost -- but wonderfully so.
Streaming audio: http://www.myspace.com/hotchip