Hot Chip Hot Chip… Indie or dance? Potayto, potahto!

Review: Hot Chip at O2 Academy Brixton

Published on October 22nd, 2012 | Theo Gorst

At around 10pm on Thursday the 18th of October 2012, Alexis Taylor – default front man of Hot Chip – gives one of the emptiest threats you’re ever likely to hear in Brixton: “Sir, I’ve a good mind to take you outside.” An array of jackets, white slacks and NHS specs, Hot Chip have always been self-conscious, but it’s their willful denial of all that constitutes the ‘classic rock star’ that leads them to this point; lyrics from recent LP In Our Heads encompass commitments in long term relationships, a particularly unfashionable topic compared to the traditional hedonism one associates with dance music. And yet here they are, headlining two nights at Brixton, which is surely testament to the undeniably terrific collection of tracks they’ve built up during their ten-year existence.

Having always on their albums married slow, sensitive tracks with those designed for the dance floor, it’s perhaps unsurprising that tonight’s set list takes its cues from the latter. Indeed in tracks like “Over and Over”, “Night and Day” and the afore-quoted “Hold On”, the crowd are treated to some of the most intelligent dance music to have emerged in the last decade. “Over and Over” assumes the status of a post-millennial anthem simply by virtue of its excellence, its searing guitar line offering a triumphant freedom from the slowly building verse, and it is sure to lodge itself within the listener’s mind for months to come, its enduring appeal six years after its initial release being testament to this.

Hot Chip are yet to release a truly outstanding album; instead their LPs are all consistently good, with each one housing a handful of glorious tracks, and indeed the In Our Heads numbers performed here do little to dispel this theory. “How Do You Do” stands as perhaps the archetypal Hot Chip track, intelligent lyrics, a sweet sentiment and most importantly a fantastic groove, while fellow new tracks “Don’t Deny Your Heart” and “Flutes” perform the same duties. Indeed it’s the tracks that marry the band’s trademark melancholy with an infectious beat that stand as the band’s most successful: “One Life Stand”, “Ready For the Floor” and “And I Was A Boy From School” all represent a perfect blend of the two sonic components that make Hot Chip such an interesting band. The “I got lost” line from “…Boy From School shows an emotional tenderness often absent from the dance floor; Taylor may well be lost, but in saying so thousands have found a band who make pop music like few before them.

While Hot Chip do undeniably make pop music, on their finest tracks there lie idiosyncrasies rejected by the mainstream, which is partly what makes “Let Me Be Him” a disappointing finale, offering a chanted chorus that would sound more appropriate in Ibiza than at the gig of a Domino Records artist. Indeed such a song seems to go against Taylor’s own feelings towards such a scene, as heard on the “Night and Day” rap “we’re not in Ayia Napa”.

Finally that the band omitted any tracks from what is perhaps their strongest album – their debut Coming On Strong – is also slightly disappointing, especially considering the inclusion of “Crap Kraft Dinner” on recent set lists.

That Hot Chip have reached a stage in their career whereby any set list they produce is likely to leave out certain songs that mean an awful lot to many people is testament to the body of work they’ve amassed over the last decade. In 2002 they released Coming On Strong, and in 2012 they’re continuing to go from strength to strength, as tonight’s show proves.

Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!

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In Our Heads is out now on Domino Records. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit hotchip.co.uk

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About the Author

Living on a sonic diet of Belle and Sebastian, Pavement and Yo La Tengo, Theo resides in London and when not writing for Rocksucker studies English at Goldsmiths University.