HOT CHIP

Coming on Strong

(Astralwerks)

What's an electro-pop lover to do? With no new Junior Boys album on the horizon, the aural embraces of

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Hot Chip's Coming on Strong

Plus: J Dilla and Fire Engines.

HOT CHIP

Coming on Strong

(Astralwerks)

What's an electro-pop lover to do? With no new Junior Boys album on the horizon, the aural embraces of the recent New Order and forthcoming Pet Shop Boys could offer familiar comfort. But once you see past those mature gentlemen's cool wit and detached sensitivity, you notice their arms have gone a little flabby. Isn't it time for a fresh fling? Such thinking has led many an unsuspecting innocent to fall for a cad, and it's this dark path that leads straight to the nefarious seductions of Hot Chip. Their robot-eyed soul couldn't be more winsome; you won't find a more ingratiating pickup line than the samplicious "Down With Prince." At their best, the London quintet are catchy like mononucleosis. Who could resist the gentle ribbing about Stevie Wonder's blindness in the descent into funk that is "Keep Fallin'"—not to mention the genial plea to strip in "The Beach Party"? When they croon about all the people they love being here and drunk in the kiss-off "Cheap Kraft Dinner," you could almost believe that Hot Chip might have a heart somewhere beneath their semideprecating braggadocio, at least before that alto sax slithers in. We had some good times, these snotty brats and I. So why do I feel so cheap now? I don't want to ride anymore in this band's shiny Escalade, and I don't want to drive in their Peugeot blaring out Yo La Tengo, however tight the production. If the Junior Boys started snorting coke at after-parties and making faux disco in a misguided effort to score chicks, they could become these dirtbags. Still, there's hope for the tenderhearted: Could Hot Chip be the craggy portrait that will keep the Junior Boys' Dorian Gray pretty? KRISTAL HAWKINS

J DILLA

Donuts

(Stones Throw)

Page 152 of Gingko Press' Behind the Beat finds Detroit hip-hop producer Jay Dee gaunt, hunched by perpendicular desks in a sunlit Hollywood Hills living room, framed by empty space and bare walls and flooring, with desk-perched laptop and samplers the only visible indulgences. Dee—J Dilla, James Yancey, or simply uncredited in the liner notes of D'Angelo's Voodoo—died of lupus-related complications at 32, three days after the release of his frenzied 31-track release, Donuts, the product of a bedridden hospital stay, which can easily cast that ascetic home studio as the proper setting for a producer who has shaped tracks for every Native Tongues and Soulquarian affiliate worth his or her bohemian pretensions. Donuts is guest verse–free, with the tracks' brevity—a lone cut cracks two minutes—and deliberately jarring transitions suggesting Sergei Eisenstein: Frank Zappa urges a couple to dance while a muddled piano loop untangles itself, lopes along, folds back into itself, then gives way to an asphyxiation via kazoo. The entire disc functions as a Möbius fun house, with '70s soul vocal swipes vying for space with commercials, crackpots, sirens, and elasticized moans as nimble drums accommodate and ward off the impending chaos. Few producers have ever been this surgically, head-noddingly strange. HASTINGS CAMERON

FIRE ENGINES

Codex Teenage Premonition

(Domino)

Post-punk's New Sound of Scotland long ago gave way to a new generation, and Domino Records has been bridging the gap. Following last year's The Glasgow School, which compiled Orange Juice's early singles, Domino now collects the ephemera of OJ's noisier peers Fire Engines, who formed in 1979 and released the debut single "Get Up and Use Me"/"Everything's Roses" on their own Codex Communications label in 1980. Codex contains both sides of that 7-inch plus outtakes, a 1981 Peel session, and a smattering of live tracks. Instead of following the Anglophiles, Fire Engines studied the guitar licks of Bowery punk Richard Hell, most obviously on the Voidoids-esque 1981 cult favorite "Candyskin." Most of these songs are in perpetual transit, brisk and scattered via David Henderson's barely decipherable lyrics, Murray Slade's fidgety guitar, and Russell Burn's popcorn beat and cowbell. Domino is far too generous with extras and leaves a hankering for the band's out-of-print album material. Including three versions of "Discord" is excessive, but to be fair, there's plenty of variation. A 1980 live performance extracts post-punk's nihilism and replaces it with R&B swagger, while the same song cut during a Peel session spins like a toy that's been wound too tightly. The reunited Fire Engines supported Franz Ferdinand on a 2005 tour, commemorated with a limited-edition split 7-inch on which the veterans turned the upstarts' "Jacqueline" into an off-kilter curio, seamlessly falling in line with their former selves. KATE SILVER

 
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