Fifteen years into their career, the dance group opt for a more natural sound with chewy beats and carefree attitude
Among the many lessons pop learned from Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’ in 2013 – Pharrell guarantees you a million-seller, Muppets songwriter Paul Williams matches well with hip French electro – there was another compelling discovery: live drums still sound fantastic on a dance record. Daft Punk had Michael Jackson and Miles Davis collaborator Omar Hakim doing the business, Hot Chip have their rather less starry touring member Sarah Jones, but the effect doesn’t waver. Powered by Jones’ beats, the quintet’s sixth album ‘Why Make Sense?’ has an organic power that puts it a cut above their previous machine-driven efforts.
This fresh muscle shows that, 15 years into their career, Hot Chip are making an explicit attempt to capture their live energy and change their approach. Who wants to be static anyway? The group’s new, natural sound is most obvious on the title-track – a churning groove amplified by churchy organ – and on first single ‘Huarache Lights’. On the latter, fat, chewy beats ground a sweet tale of singer Alexis Taylor’s joy at going out DJing (“I know every single we play tonight will make the people just bathe in the light”), an unexpectedly exciting sample of Philadelphian disco group First Choice’s 1977 disco classic ‘Let No Man Put Asunder’ and a lot of larking about with a vocal-distorting talk box.
They use the talkbox – a funk favourite of the 1970s – when chipping out old school R&B matched by disco strings on the fluid ‘Love Is The Future’, which features De La Soul’s Posdnuos rapping over an itchy, hyperactive rhythm. The ‘Let’s Get It On’ lope of ‘White Wine And Fried Chicken’, meanwhile, will have Marvin Gaye’s children making fantasy royalties calculations. Hot Chip indulge Clavinet – think Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ – on the clipped, funky ‘Started Right’, before rediscovering their modern touch for the garage house of ‘Need You Now’, a song apparently inspired by the threat of terrorism which laments “a world that’s just gone wrong” over sparse electro beats and bleeps.
It’s a rare paranoid moment on a record that mostly finds Hot Chip carefree, revelling in the absence of layers of electronic adornment. Stripped back to basics and muttering against the machines, they’ve never come on so strong.