Review: Hot Chip – In Our Heads
Published on June 22nd, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Hot Chip have over the course of their four previous albums proved themselves to be a group worth taking far more seriously than their name and jocular stage presence seemed initially to suggest, and there’s nothing on In Our Heads to detract from the respect and appreciation they’ve accumulated with each passing release.
Opener “Motion Sickness” welcomes you aboard with big, stomping brass and a delightfully shuffling beat that later shows off a wispy synth refrain and a squelchy old-school synth breakdown amongst a parade of goodies on its Generation Game-style conveyor belt. “Remember when people thought the world was round” we are implored, but it’s hard to do so when your ears and mind are full of highly-evolved pop music.
“How Do You Do?” deceives insofar as the chorus actually goes “how do you do it?” but it is a curious little cosmic rave, paving the way for the tangential digi-funk splendour of “Don’t Deny Your Heart” to recall the slight dissonance that set up such killer hooks on “One Life Stand” and “Ready for the Floor”.
“Look At Where We Are Now” showcases a mellow, McCartney-ish vocal from Alexis Taylor and its creeping minor 7th atmosphere flowers into a charming, faintly modern R&B-ish little love song with some pleasingly daft pitch-shifting to make the oh‘s kind of gulp-y, before lead vocal duties revert to Joe Goddard for the enjoyably strange/strangely enjoyable electro-house-whatever menace of “These Chains”. Both singers are in great form throughout their respective numbers, and each one is textured to perfection amidst the bold, colourful production.
The thwomping bass line, synth hiccups and and raised-pitch backing vocals of “Night and Day” make it quite the most alien thing on In Our Heads thus far, not to mention the album’s most show-boat-y track with its (ahem) insertion of the lyric “If I could be inside you, darling / In the centre of your mind” and interjection of arguably-underused The 2 Bears baritone. “I don’t got no Abba / I don’t play no Gabba / I like Zapp not Zappa / So please quit your jibber-jabber / I’ve just lined up Macca / We’re not in Ayia Napa / Do I look like a rapper? / Do I look like a rapper?“ – truly this is inspired stuff.
“Flutes” had Rocksucker checking we weren’t suddenly surrounded by swarms of people with its subliminal ambience in each channel – there’s otherworldly children’s chanting at first, and then ’80s electro as cross-pollinated with quality songwriting and arrangements, while “nothing makes sense in my brain” can only be met by the listener with assent. In Our Heads gets progressively (impressively) odder as it goes along, but the transition feels seamless when lubricated by that syrupy production.
Indeed, “Flutes” goes on to cast a gorgeous chord progression over the pointedly-rendered lyric “One day you will realise / That you might have to open your eyes”, breaks into an elegant trot and then returns to popping digi-funk. Lovely deft drumming, we must say.
“Ends of the Earth” is both euphoric and pretty weird, a fantastic combination that makes it the outstanding contender for single status to Rocksucker’s ear. It wields an ingenious lead keyboard riff like a psychedelic lightsaber and becomes quite stirring, setting the stage for the blissfully laid-back, Diagrams-reminding-of “Let Me Be Him” to plant loopy bass ‘neath those gorgeously understated vocals and harmonies. The tangentialism continues apace with a trippy beatless breakdown playing host to myriad noises chirruping and whirring away in both channels of a sunny groove as if the Discovery Channel were covering “Loaded” by Primal Scream.
“Always Been Your Love” is another strong contender for singledom, a beautiful piece of soul-pop with a guitar solo cast as endearingly playful by silly female spoken word over the top of it. It’s fantastic.
If there is a criticism to level then Rocksucker chooses to take issue with the fact that only two songs (“Look At Where We Are Now” and “Now There is Nothing”) are under four minutes, and curiously enough they both clock in at 3.59 on the dot. This is nitpicking, though.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
In Our Heads is out now on Domino Records. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit hotchip.co.uk