Hot Chip’s eighth LP is very much a product of recent times. ‘Freakout/Release’ is the culmination of the last few years’ worth of turmoil immortalised in album form. Reflecting on the group’s latest offering, Joe Goddard ruminates “we were living through a period where it was very easy to feel like people were losing control of their lives in different ways.
There’s a darkness that runs through a lot of those tracks.” Despite the tone of the record leaning to the murkier side of life, there’s an element of catharsis that comes with the five-some documenting these struggles while they offer a figurative arm around the shoulder throughout. Thematically, ‘Freakout/Release’ centres on mental health struggles and how they can be all consuming, especially if you reject the love and support of others around you. Sonically the band’s electro-pop motifs are still there but dampened down to mimic the album’s sombre narrative.
The light disco wiggle of ‘Down’ gets ‘Freakout/Release’ in motion, which is where the marker is laid down for the record’s melancholic tone. Frontman Alexis Taylor can be heard cooing “you’ve got to use me until I run out of juice/but don’t replace me/maybe a screw has come loose” which offers an early indication of where the album’s narrative is heading. From this point onwards, the album delicately swerves from having enough strength to cope with the slings and arrows life hurls at us, to being pierced by those very same pointy projectiles from time to time. The record’s titular track, in collaboration with Soulwax, convulses as if Daft Punk’s now-defunct robotic bodies have risen from the grave, as Taylor frustratingly details the consumerist culture that’s engulfed music “music used to be a love/now people take it or leave it.” Conversely ‘Not Alone’ is a nocturnal glimmer through delicate nuances that sparkle and fragment. The group’s vocalist adopts a soothing, angelic tone that’s equal parts sad, as it is comforting, as he delivers “you think no-one knows about the darkness that you feel” and “anxiety can only kill a man if he turns away a helping hand.”
‘Time’ is something of a sad banger thanks to its constant bass drum thump and danceable fragments that envelope Taylor once more as he describes a less than healthy environment “they say time will heal you/do they know what you’ve been through?” and “where you are taking me/it isn’t where I want to be.” Like with ‘Time’, which also contains the mantra “time will heal you” ‘Miss The Bliss’ pivots on the notion of redemption and repair “you can heal/if you’re wounded/you can heal/any time”. Although the reality of recognising the bad place you can find yourself in is the subject of album closer ‘Out of my Depth’. Commencing with an evangelical hue before swelling to something more joyous and freeing, it’s evident that Taylor’s head is rooted in sorrow-drenched introspection “my darkest place is in me and there’s something there that calls me.”
By addressing, confronting and reconciling their deepest insecurities, Hot Chip have made a subtly defiant record that stares melancholy in the face and with a wry smile says “not today pal”.
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