Hot Chip — “Ready for the Floor”

Released: 1.28.08

Peak: Did not chart

The two singles from Hot Chip’s breakthrough, The Warning, established the parameters of the band’s sensibility. Sweet: The gentle teen alienation of “Boy From School” (“We try/ But we don’t belong”) wafted past as waves of colorful synth burbled below. Sour: “Over and Over” celebrated “the joy of repetition,” its stalwart rhythmic insistence earning that title while a convincing electronic simulacra of a fly buzzed in and out of aural focus. Then again, “parameters” suggests that Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard work a field of gradients between thoughtful empathy and broad shtick; more accurately they alternate with schizoid inconsistency between those extremes.

“Ready for the Floor” integrated these two sides of Hot Chip. The lyric is an appeal for an argument–for one of those all-out, all-night clearing away of resentful clutter that too much silence can allow a relationship to accumulate–and Taylor’s thoughtful tenor lends the repetitive, fuzzy lyrics a conversational appeal. He sounds like he means what he sings, even if that precise meaning eludes us. And since what we have here is a failure to communicate, maybe precise meaning should elude us, even when Taylor throws in an offhand Jack Nicholson/Jack Palance/Tim Burton quote (“You’re my number one guy”), without explanation, that misled casual listeners into thinking he’s gay.

The music is equally direct. Where The Warning‘s singles were club music slotted into verse-chorus structures, “Ready for the Floor” was ingratiating synth-pop. With thematic consistency, the introductory vamp misdirects the listener, suggesting a less conventional track than what follows, but the meat of the song thumps with forthright bleep-boom-bap. Taste is always a questionable pop value; in synth-pop, it’s a downright handicap. Hot Chip’s achievement with “Ready for the Floor” is to come off neither tasteful nor dumb. Though for anyone who’s since doubted Hot Chip’s commitment to shtick, they did collaborate with Peter Gabriel on an unnecessary redo of Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.”

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