Pop music rarely sounds quite so conflicted as it does on Made in the Dark, Hot Chip's third album. Released at a point in their career when many fans were expecting the Mercury nominees to bust out a big, huggable, everyone's-invited type of record, it's easy to see this as their "difficult" album, one that delights in needless complications. Opening with scabrous organ riffs dished out in an odd time signature, the restless record moves from idea to manic idea, turning upon itself like a sickle cell. "Out at the Pictures" is a sing-song sprawl of '60s rock, junkyard percussion, dog barks and dulcet choruses; the catchy "Shake a Fist" stops midway through for a spoken-word interlude about studio artifice before exploding into laser fire. The cartoonish dance anthem "Ready for the Floor" shows off the band's knack for immaculate choruses; throughout, their magpie tendencies result in a stockpile of video-game bleeps, gnarled funk licks, toy percussion, harpsichords, spindly African leads and even, in places, a nether layer of distorted, crunching guitars, like a heavy-metal petticoat.
But it's not all so schizophrenic; "One Pure Thought" is a surprisingly straightforward jam, despite its shift from arena rock to syncopated dance-music cadences, and the title track, "Whistle for Will" and "In the Privacy of Our Love" are understated soul miniatures, soothing balms for all the prickly business surrounding them. Not an easy record to wrap your head around, perhaps, but once you do, it's not hard to submit to its own lovably goofy embrace.