CD reviews for Hot Chip, North Mississippi Allstars
February 8, 2008
Steamboat Springs — “Made in the Dark”
A track and a half into “Made in the Dark,” London loop quintet Hot Chip samples Todd Rundgren. What Rundgren says explains every Hot Chip song ever recorded:
“Before we go any farther, I’d like to show you all a game I made up. This game is called sounds of the studio, and it can played with any record, including this one,” he monotones, with the same matter-of-fact, “we’re about to hear some samples” aridity that makes most Hot Chip songs sound so effortlessly built.
What follows is a very simple, very beat-driven dance break. It’s not much like the rest of the record, where co-vocalists Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor are clearly focused on songwriting, not dance music. And what makes that contradiction work is its placement in the middle of the track, close to the front of the record. It’s an incredibly inward look at the bands dance-pop song structure, and it allows Goddard and Taylor to sing outwardly everywhere else.
So later, we get songs like “Wrestlers,” with a chorus loop that turns a relationship to a WWE bout: “I learned all I know from watching wrestling / I think you think I’m about to throw the towel in.” That line is driven by Hot Chip’s sense of melody, which sounds a lot more like mid-’90s R&B than it does like 21st century house music – the half-involved piano-drawn soul makes “Wrestlers” a good song.
Throughout “Made in the Dark,” those kinds of tracks are paired with twittering Euro-marches – the kind of thing you dance to with your arms and the occasional heel-tap. It can be uneven, but it works well enough.
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North Mississippi Allstars
North Mississippi Allstars songs are straightforward. And even when the Allstars pay homage to folk music from their home state, they’re really just playing blues-rock.
“It’s really in a way more rootsy than other records we’ve done – it’s kind of a classic blues-rock sound,” said front man Luther Dickinson, in an interview before the band played in Steamboat for Ski Jam.
On the band’s latest record, the classic sound Dickinson describes is exactly what you get. It’s full of slide guitars, half-hearted lyrics and deep Southern soul. The songs are R.L. Burnside and Chuck Berry, crafted by a band that understands that those influences are basically the same thing.
There’s rockabilly on tracks such as “Mizzip,” which serves as a clear reminder of where rock ‘n’ roll can go from the roots music the band has always referenced (the unstated purpose of everything the North Mississippi Allstars do).
There also are songs that just don’t work, such as the meddling, minor final track, “Long Way From Home.”
Most of “Hernando” accomplishes what Dickinson said the band set out to do: get back to the part of the blues that makes him want to shout, slap some distortion on the guitar and play a rock song.