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Hot Chip - In Our Heads

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Artist: Hot Chip

Album: In Our Heads

Label: Domino

Review date: Jun. 14, 2012

Hipster logic should hold that Hot Chip sound worse than ever. After signing with EMI, getting shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, and losing a Grammy to Daft Punk, you’d think they’d sold themselves down the River Styx. Oddly enough, Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard and the rest of pop’s electro ambassadors haven’t paid a single toll. In fact, for Hot Chip at least, the bigger they’ve dreamt, the harder they’ve been to fell. Here, on In Our Heads, the group’s fifth studio release and first on indie goliath Domino, I don’t think they’ve ever sounded better.

To wit, opening cut “Motion Sickness” might be Hot Chip’s strongest overture since The Warning‘s “Careful.” Whereas the latter’s manic dose of glitched-out EBM made it the more unstable, the former, with its steady brass pads and stock rock 4/4, remains cool and collected. Were it not for what I hear lyrically as a half-hearted lament for the Sony Discman, “Motion Sickness” might even be called “mature.” Regardless, Taylor, Goddard and especially newfound drummer Sarah Jones sure seem confident. In contrast, “Night and Day,” their first official single together, plays every bit as unsettling as Terence Stamp’s lip-sung cameo from the Peter Serafinowicz video. (Favorite quatrain: “I don’t got no ABBA. / I don’t play no gabber. / I like ZZZap! / Not Zappa.”) In all seriousness, I hear a darkness here bordering on the macabre. Sure, Hot Chip are Sweetwater pros at making the angular and the aberrant danceable, but never before has a single of theirs sounded so sinister…and still worked brilliantly. If, like me, your favorite brick ‘n’ mortar was out of “Night and Day” on Saturday morning, April 21, you’ve since been granted a reprise. (Remix by Daphni [a.k.a. Dan “Caribou” Snaith] not included.)

There are other fine songs of experience here, as well, several of which just could not have been made by the same band that released Coming On Strong way back in 2004. For starters, both Taylor and Goddard have families now. So, while a song called “These Chains” might read like a bad thing on the back of the record, its sweet, but not saccharine sentiment says something refreshing. "These chains you bound around my heart complete me, baby," coos Goddard atop an atypically unfussy arrangement. Meanwhile, the triplet-against-quarter polyrhythms of “Flutes” (markedly so in the chorus) make for a jittery strain of sonic sophistry heretofore unbroached. The only real stinker of the bunch is “Ends of the Earth,” but again, it’s not for lack of trying something new. Mushing Hi-NRG vox onto a snap grid of too fast Balearic, and then syncopating the whole thing to Jamaica and back, probably wouldn’t work for anyone. No, not even Donna Summer.

For true British gentry, five albums has proved enough tape to find oneself. (Remember, Daniel Miller’s Normal came to with just a single 7”.) So cheerio, indeed, to Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard, et al. for trekking o’er new terrain this time. It’s a welcome venture, for sure, and just like all those previous Hot Chip records, In Our Heads won’t go unmoved to. What Taylor and Goddard were forced to self-release only a decade or so ago is going to make Domino some serious quid.

By Logan K. Young

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