he mix CD represents different things to different people. Some look to the mix disc to recreate the live dance club experience at home; some prefer their mixes to be more clinical and precise, less “live” sounding; some are just looking for a collection of cool music that will create a mood. There is a place for all of these types (and more), and to judge one against another is an apples-to-oranges argument. Just pick a direction, go with it, and entertain us. As long as the mixer moves in a generally linear direction, the audience will usually be happy.
The trouble, then, with Hot Chip’s entry into the long-running DJ-Kicks series is that it can’t seem to settle on what it wants to be. At some points, it’s an old school party mix, at others a straight dancefloor workout, and equally as often, it’s an eclectic mash-up of styles. Sometimes though—too many times—it’s all three at once. The songs themselves are ace, but the haphazard running order and the inconsistent mixing makes it nigh on impossible to generate—or maintain—any sort of forward motion.
It’s true that the raw materials Hot Chip are working with are inspired, and they go a long way toward showing exactly what is going on in the heads of the band that led them to come up with their unique dance/rock/indie/undie hybrid sound. There’s hip-hop old and new (Postive K’s “I Got A Man,” Young Leek’s “Jiggle It”), juke joint R&B (Etta James & Sugar Pie DeSanto’s “In The Basement, Part One”), classic electro-pop (Shep Pettibone’s much-loved remix of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle”), Brazilian (Tom Zé’s “Cademar”), punk funk (Gramme’s “Like You”), post-punk heroes (This Heat’s “Radio Prague”), minimal techno (cuts from Audion, Dominik Eulberg, and Marek Bois, to name a few), and lots, lots more.
But the problem isn’t with the building blocks, it’s with the blueprint—smooth runs generally don’t go any further then three tunes before they grind to a halt or are mashed unattractively up against their opposite number. By the time you’re ready to get up and get your groove on, the rug is pulled out and you’re sitting on the sofa again. This isn’t about technical mixing ability (although it certainly would have helped at least a little), this is about planning, and Hot Chip sound like they are flying by the seat of their collective pants.
The second half of the album does manage to get on a roll with the modern dance vibe, but it’s too little too late. By the time Roman Flügel’s mix of Audion’s “Just Fucking” is shoehorned into Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out,” you’ve heard this Frankenstein mix-and-match enough times to not even be surprised. Fittingly, the mix ends on Ray Charles’ classic rambler “Mess Around”—accent on the mess.
The most frustrating thing is that this all could have worked. Look no further than Four Tet’s DJ-Kicks from 2006 for an example of an eclectic, all-over-the-map mix that still manages to move from point A to point B with a generally pleasing sense of motion, even while it tosses in everything but the kitchen sink. You don’t have to stick to a single genre or be a precise, beat-matching machine to be successful at the mix. But you do have to draw the line somewhere, and here, Hot Chip are just on the wrong side of it.