Studio albums from one of the World’s Greatest DJs—Oakenfold, van Buuren, Van Helden—often include at least one 3 a.m. detour toward a love song. These usually fail miserably, illustrating how tough it is for dance acts to keep one eye on the BPM and one on the heart. On third album Made in the Dark, however, it sounds like British quintet Hot Chip have used introversion, isolation and study to prepare for just this kind of opportunity.
Still recording stumblebum electro in a cramped apartment, Hot Chip’s impossibly thunderous tour supporting mid-tempo marvel The Warning bears fruit on Made in the Dark with their hardest rocking songs yet. “Bendable Poseable” warps the minimalist crunk of boy bands and their alumni; a Todd Rundgren studio snippet prefaces laser-beam synths in “Shake a Fist.” “Out at the Pictures” and “Ready for the Floor” loop Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard’s voices over and over like cybernetic big-band horns.
This sometimes embarrassingly earnest sound manages to help their ballads as well. “Wrestlers” recites WWE lingo as metaphors for the struggle to keep a lover close. In name and soulful vocal feel “We’re Looking for a Lot of Love” embraces the pop schmaltz of Nicolette Larson’s “It’s Gonna Take a Lot of Love.” Even the title track hints at slightly-sad songsmiths: Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy.
Hot Chip do occasionally mimic LCD a touch too much yet nail the impersonation in “Hold On,” backsliding funk with the feel-good lyric of 2008: “I’m only going to heaven / if it tastes like caramel.” Made in the Dark overall is a wildly entertaining statement of sympathy for love- and attention-starved children, inner and otherwise. Beautiful, bouncy and a little forlorn, it speaks to geekboys and bookish-hot librarians of the past and future all too familiar with lonely bedroom-mirror raves soundtracked by stereo speakers and portable keyboards.