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(Soundbite of music)

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. Im David Bianculli in for Terry Gross.

Hot Chip is a British pop music act led by Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard and a shifting group of backup musicians. Formed in 2000, Hot Chip has had numerous dance club hits, but rock critic, Ken Tucker says the group's new album called "One Life Stand" finds Taylor and Goddard mixing their dance music with romantic ballads for an earnest new effectiveness.

(Soundbite of song, "Thieves in the Night")

HOT CHIP (Pop musicians): (Singing) My friend once told me something so right. He said to be careful of thieves in the night. Ooh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Baby I've lost you here in the crowd. Open your arms I want to be found. Ooh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Maybe I'm calling...

KEN TUCKER: The core British duo of Hot Chip, Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard, both sing and play various keyboards, synthesizers, and percussion. Friends since their early teens, the two men share an eclectic taste for disco, house, and techno music, as well as soul and gospel. They also admire some of the more ornate American singer-songwriter-producers from the '60s and '70s, such as Van Dyke Parks and David Ackles. All of these influences converge on the driving ballad such as "Hand Me Down Your Love."

(Soundbite of song, "Hand Me Down Your Love")

HOT CHIP: (Singing) Hand me down your love. Hand me down your love. Hand me down your love. Hand me down your love. Hand me down your love, when I'm feeling sick, hand me down your love. Hand me down your love, when I'm losing it, hand me down your love. Open up my love.

TUCKER: Hot Chip layers its songs carefully. The beat in any given song is the organizing principal; every other element is artfully arrayed around it. Listen to the title track of "One Life Stand." The song builds from the beat to become a kind of nuanced flirtation, both with the person being flattered in the lyric and you, as you get drawn into the allure of the rhythm.

(Soundbite of "One Life Stand")

HOT CHIP: (Singing) Tell me where you've been to. Nowhere that you shouldn't do. Tell me what you're good for. I can tell you something too. Where have you been staying? Tell me what you're playing. Hope it's not my conscious. But it keeps complaining.

TUCKER: I only want to be your one life stand, sings Alexis Taylor there playing off the phrase one night stand an emphasizing its opposite: this is one dance-club denizen who doesn't want a night of action he's looking for commitment.

When contrasted with music that can be efficient and chilly, such warmth in tone can be a nice surprise. So it goes as well on the song "Brothers," a pop hymn to brotherhood that seems intent on proving it comes from the heart.

(Soundbite of song, "Brothers")

HOT CHIP: (Singing) Brothers, I can take it if I know I'll see my brother. And just step back when I'm dancing with my brother is dancing with me. Brothers, I would give my life for my brothers.

TUCKER: This lack of irony stands in contrast to the history of British synth-pop music. To take just the most famous example, the Pet Shop Boys became a huge success by inserting a languid cynicism into peppy dance tunes. Hot Chip started out making songs that were hits in their native England trading on just such upbeat, cheeky cleverness. But now that we're older as they sing on this song called "Slush" they assert that it's straightforwardness honesty they've called it in interviews that interests the Hot Chip boys more frequently.

(Soundbite of song, "Slush")

HOT CHIP: (Singing) What is the answer? Oh, you know, we'd all like to know. What is your reason? Oh I know, we'd all long to know. Though there is nothing else left in our hearts. And what was your question...

TUCKER: No one is ever going to mistake the emotionalism of Hot Chip for the naturalistic realism of Bruce Springsteen or even the ballads of Elton John. But with this album "One Life Stand," Hot Chip earns its ambition and its stylistic shift. Taylor and Goddard are reaching out to a broader audience in a way that's more intimate, more seductive than sexy dance-club music can or dares to be.

DAVID BIANCULLI: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large for Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed "One Life Stand" from Hot Chip.

Coming up, a conversation with Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon from "The Informant."

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

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