…and in preparation for the weekend, the perfect album to start the party: Hot Chip’s In Our Heads
England’s Hot Chip are the ultimate in blissed-out, cheeky, Geeky Indie-Dance. Well perhaps that is because they are the only ones doing it on those terms. Working in a genre not known for lyrical cleverness (if you’ve ever been to a true techno dance club you’ll know that words are at a premium), Hot Chip made a name for themselves by blending their keen sense of humor and word play with well-crafted and infectious dance music. Unlike other Electro Dance bands on both sides of the Atlantic, Hot Chip have always fully embraced the rhythm and culture of dance halls, not simply overlaying a catchy dance beat on what is otherwise a rock song, but working with all dance styles (techno, house, and even dub-step now) and bringing an art-school, literary sensibility to a seemingly superficial medium and culture. (If you really dig deep into European dance music, there is less frivolity and more creativity than you might think.) But, one thing is certain, Hot Chip loves a good beat and wants to get you dancing along with them. If you’ve seen them live, you know the show is one giant dance party filled with extended DJ sets adding layers and layers of live mixing to their regular material. A great deal of this manipulation of classic and contemporary dance comes from Joe Goddard the co-lead singer/piano player and resident DJ for the band. (No, I’m not forgetting Alexis Taylor and his brilliant bespectacled stage presence and angelic falsetto.). Goddard is unapologetic in his love for house and techno music and you definitely hear it on his side project The 2 Bears – not a reference to the fuzzy animals – and now it has filtered even more emphatically into the Hot Chip repertoire.
In Our Heads feels like a logical progression and synthesis of the direction Hot Chip has been headed over the last two records Made in the Dark and One Life Stand. Focusing less on being the clown princes of the dance scene and cultural punsters, Hot Chip’s lyrics have evolved from tongue-in-cheek jabs and inside jokes to mature professions of love (“In the Privacy of Our Love” and “One Life Stand”) and companionship (“Brothers”) or outright celebrations of the thrill of dancing (pretty much every other song – and that is why I love this band.) (The band hasn’t given up being witty entirely; it is just far less overt than songs about riding Escalades with their “boo.”) So, yes, there is less sarcasm and irony meandering through the tracks but as always the beats are thumping and relentless. Although I enjoyed the last two records, I thought the sequencing of songs was slightly off. For me what made Hot Chip’s The Warning one of the best dance records ever was how it moved invisibly between tracks creating the feeling of a cleverly curated dance mix: a steady blend of up-beat fist-pumping dance numbers with slower, mellower jams to catch one’s breath – at my age dancing for 30 or 40 minutes straight is just out of the question. In Our Heads follows the blueprint of The Warning by offering a perfectly organized collection and ordering of songs. You’d be forgiven for not being able to isolate individual tracks, it’s not to say they aren’t unique and different, but they seamlessly blend into each other in an ingenious way, and before you know it you are twenty minutes into the album, swaying and dancing without any sense of how many songs have passed. But, if you can isolate the tracks, these are some of the most pleasant compositions Hot Chip have produced in some time with a number of nods to electronic and dance motifs from the 70s to the present and other cultural traditions — check the Caribbean influence on the second half of “Don’t Deny Your Heart” or the opening to “Flutes” with its decidedly non-Western vocal sample. In particular, the album’s opening three tracks, “Motion Sickness”, “How Do You Do” and “Don’t Deny Your Heart”, are filled with a playful and joyous tone that permeates throughout the record. But, this is dance music, something to be heard and experienced, not deconstructed, so I’ll not belabor with any additional “heady” discussion and let you start grooving with Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard, and Co.
Get sweaty with Hot Chip’s In Our Heads, for your listening pleasure in its entirety here.
Also, for those new to HC, check out this post with a mix of my favorite tracks from their previous albums.