New Hot Chip songs always seem like spaceships: sleek, polished, unsubtle, a little ridiculous. These qualities make it easy to marvel at the work of the London group while also underestimating it. Hot Chip have been around for nearly 20 years now, and though they reached a peak about halfway through (their mid-career albums Made in the Dark and One Life Stand are hard to choose between), they’ve never entirely dropped off. Their last album, 2015’s Why Make Sense, was a grower, complete with one of their best singles to date (“Started Right”). Their new one, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, sounds at first so Hot Chippy as to be a caricature, with big Technicolor beats and big, tenderly sung ballads from lead vocalist Alexis Taylor, but it turns out to be another strong entry. For the most part, it’s compulsively listenable, oddly moving, and stranger than it first appears, as the band gets existential on the dance floor.
This is despite some truly dopey lyrics. The opener is called “Melody of Love,” and floats this sentiment at you: “I always seem to hesitate/Too little always comes too late/There is a sound that resonates/A melody of love.” That’s purpler than a bruise. But Hot Chip have one of the more interesting relationships with banality this side of Dan Bejar (think of their ludicrous, beautiful song “Brothers”). And the more you listen to “Melody of Love,” the more comforting you find it. The scale of the music is just immense, enough to dwarf the silliness of the words. The track was created from a 12-minute, gospel-sampling instrumental track and whittled down to a state of intense purity with the help of the xx producer Rodaidh McDonald, but it still feels colossal. At some point, even the lyrics start to make sense as a catalyst for free association. A line as throwaway as “Do you have faith to feel in this world” seems profound for the kinds of thoughts it inspires with the soaring music accompanying it.