Monday, January 3, 2011

Coming On Strong
Blender, 2005

By Simon Reynolds

The title Coming On Strong is ironic. This music can barely look you in the eye. Imagine a bunch of Brits striving for the sass 'n' sheen of modern R&B and rap, but just too diffident to match the swaggering ebullience of Beyonce and 50 Cent. N.E.R.D., by real nerds, in other words. The Hot Chip vibe is distilled in “Playboy”, which sees the song’s lovelorn protagonist cheering himself up by cruising London with the top down, gangsta-style: “Driving in my Peugeot/20-inch rims with the chrome now/Blazin’ out Yo La Tengo” But the group’s two singer/songwriters, Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard, aren’t mocking black music
so much as conveying the pathos of the unbridgeable gap between pop’s fantasy world and the hum-drum reality most of us must inhabit. Bling on a budget, Hot Chip’s music is woven from the sort of burbling ‘n’ twinkling analog synth sounds you’d associate with a group like Stereolab, but the reference points are all from the last thirty years of black pop: Stevie Wonder, S.O.S. Band, Prince, Dr. Dre. Tracks like “You Ride, We Ride, In My Ride” and “Shining Escalade” have a translucent faintness, as if they’re diagrams of R&B songs that have yet to be colored in. Insidiously melodic and, in its subdued way, genuinely soulful, Coming On Strong is the best record of its ilk since The Streets’ debut.

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