Album Of The Week: Hot Chip – Freakout/Release

The London dance outfit's eighth album is a characteristic blend of humour, melancholy and sweeping synths

However much it captured indie’s burgeoning interest in dance and electronica, it is still remarkable to remember that Hot Chip’s The Warning was released 16 years ago. Walk into any hip East London bar worth its salt and it won’t be long before ‘Over And Over’, ‘Boy From School’ or its title-track appear on a mood-setting playlist.

But what have Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard, Al Doyle and co. learnt over all these years? “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”. This tongue-in-cheek piece of wisdom comes at the sleek midpoint of Freakout/Release, Hot Chip’s eighth studio album, which sees Taylor’s self-deprecating reflections saved by the sass of New Young Pony Club’s Lou Hayter’s vocals.

Hot Chip - Down (Official Video)

But however unsexy or unfunky Hot Chip feel two decades into their game, a lot of Freakout/Release feels the opposite. Lead single ‘Down’ reanimates the funk slap of Universal Togetherness Band’s ‘More Than Enough’ into a punchy electropop hit, while the robotic mantra (“Wild beast, freak out, release”) that opens the title track sets the tone for a gritty, full-band ripper with a touch of the continent, thanks to a contribution from Belgian electro heroes Soulwax. The festival-ready swells of euphoria on ‘Eleanor’, the record’s catchiest number, sound like they’re coming from a group fresh-faced with energy and optimism.

Of course, dig a little deeper, and the melancholy married so closely to Taylor’s tone of voice still permeates. For all its gentle groove, ‘Broken’ is a reckoning stare into the mirror, while for all its supportive intent, the vocal melodies and pulsing synths of ‘Not Alone’ tap intently on the heart strings. Most on the nose however is ‘The Evil That Men Can Do’, direct as its name, which reaches a dramatic climax with the help of Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon.

Perhaps not a purging, thrashy freak-out like its title might suggest, Hot Chip’s latest nevertheless splices the electropop sound they’ve refined over the last two decades with emotional ambivalence befitting the times in which it was born.

Freakout/Release is available to buy and stream from 19 August. Hot Chip play London’s O2 Academy Brixton for four nights from 21-24 September. A very limited amount of tickets are available here.