Los Angeles punk crew hit a sweet spot between hedonism and poignancy on a multi-layered second album
Hot Chip - 'In Our Heads'
They're going through the motions
On their gorgeous fourth record, 2010’s ‘One Life Stand’, they followed the road marked ‘albums as coherent pieces’, which was an odd move in an age when attention spans have been so brutally shredded that doing less than three things at once feels like time wasted. In the two years since, individual Hot Chip members have continued their quest to remix every song ever recorded, and furthered their ongoing project to have someone DJing somewhere in the world at all hours of every day for the rest of eternity. Plus: the dreaded side-projects have thrived. Joe Goddard formed playful house revivalists The 2 Bears, Al Doyle and Felix Martin worked in the dreamy New Build, and Alexis Taylor played in improv jazz outfit About Group.
Happily, there’s not the faintest smidgen of improv jazz on ‘In Our Heads’. There’s the disco that drove ‘One Life Stand’, the familiar dabs of brittle funk guitars, Taylor’s worryingly fragile falsetto and a more overt house influence than ever before. From start to finish, it has an educated and intense eye on the dancefloor, and it sounds fantastic.
Bass drums are manipulated expertly so they’re more like feelings than sounds, a steady thump living contentedly in your brain. ‘Flutes’ is the highlight. It’s palpably influenced by minimal techno, and like the best of that genre every element of the track sounds crystalline and beautiful. Seven minutes breeze past, as they should in every song that lasts seven minutes. There are other triumphant moments – from the devious earworm ‘Don’t Deny Your Heart’ and the taut ‘Ends Of The Earth’ to the swung, extroverted Burial two-step of ‘These Chains’, and ‘Look At Where We Are’, which nails that sunset-sweet mood Metronomy strode into with blissful confidence last year.
But elsewhere, Hot Chip seem tired. “You got me working night and day”, they complain on ‘Night And Day’ over a restless agit-pop backing that’s got a little bit too much in common with their previous big tunes. That song’s breakdown has one of the DJing members (your guess is as good as mine) listlessly intoning his tastes: “We’re not in Ayia Napa/Do I look like a rapper?” It’s not much fun. Who wants to hear a DJ whingeing about bad requests? People who make bad requests are drunk. They don’t care. They want you to play the hits. Deal with it. And there’s too much in Hot Chip’s head that’s merely pleasant. Lively and upbeat, but naggingly sterile. Tasteful and perfectly executed, but workmanlike. It will work in clubs and it’s lovable because it’s Hot Chip, but they’ve done better. Let’s hope they stick together long enough to do better again.
10 Tracks You Need To Hear This Week (2/9/2015)
Former Disney star enlists The Flaming Lips and Ariel Pink on a thrillingly weird surprise album
Abel Tesfaye's dark, twisted album is at odds with the glossy pop world he's been thrust into
The Cavan teenagers attack album two with abandon, largely at the expense of quality