Ready For The Floor: The Enduring And Evolving Legacy Of Hot Chip
There isn’t a great deal of bands and artists that were hot commodities circa 2006 and still hold that same kind of currency in the present day. Daniel Powter isn’t tearing through the charts, the radio isn’t flooded with Akon singles and neither Simpson sibling has reared their head for what feels like an eternity. And yet, English keyboard-wielders Hot Chip are still holding the same currency as they did when they first burst into the collective conscience on the back of their breakthrough second album, The Warning.
2019 has seen the quintet drop A Bath Full of Ecstasy, their seventh studio album. They have also undertaken a world tour in support of it that will see them arrive in Australia next February for a string of headline dates and festival appearances.
So, what is it about the music of Hot Chip that has kept people so engaged over the years? It’s a question that could prompt a myriad of answers, so let’s attempt to break it down.
Across the band’s discography and its slew of singles from the mid-2000s right up to now, there’s a key factor that unifies the strongest moments: The band’s ability of mixing ‘head and heart.’ Traditionally, electronic music has been steeped in programmed precision – gridlocked beats, note-perfect synthesizer arpeggios, a few buttons away from the desired effect at any given point of the creative process. A lot of the most famous electronic music has been defined by its disconnect with humanity – see the stoic, motionless and uniformed Kraftwerk, or even the robot disguises of Daft Punk.
While the music of Hot Chip plays into this from a musical standpoint, it simultaneously counteracts this with vocals and lyrics that often come from an emotive, vulnerable place. Take “Boy from School,” one of the band’s biggest songs and a key single from The Warning. It centres itself on layers upon layers of loops and drum machines, yet also has a set of lyrics detailing the untimely loss of innocence that comes with children growing up. Subsequent covers of the song by acts like Grizzly Bear and Tears for Fears hone further in on this emotional core, but it’s the stark contrast at play in the original that makes it so compelling.
It doesn’t stop there, either. “Flutes,” from 2012’s In Our Heads, lets loose a percussive and bass-heavy beat that uses lead vocalist Alexis Taylor as both protagonist and instrument. In the verses, his voice cracks into its head-range as he details malaise in the depths of frayed relationship. The chorus, however, sees Taylor’s vocals chopped up to give the impression of a malfunctioning robot. It’s the sound of an android dreaming of electric sheep – and there’s no way any other band apart from Hot Chip could have made it work in the way that it does.
It’s also worth noting that, while all seven albums by the band are identifiably theirs, Hot Chip have never settled into a particular groove and stuck there. They progress their established ideas, evolving them as the context surrounding the band itself changes. This is a group of musicians and songwriters that know how to adapt and evolve, which is why a song as dark and frenetic as “Night & Day” can coexist on an album with a song as bright and genuinely sweet as “Don’t Deny Your Heart.”
One could say the same of pairings like “I Feel Better” and “One Night Stand,” both lifted from One Night Stand, or even “Spell” and “Why Does My Mind” from A Bath Full of Ecstasy. A Hot Chip song is not a monolith, nor does it exist in some sort of singularity. By challenging themselves and differentiating on each and every release, Hot Chip have found a way to keep what they do interesting – not only for themselves but for their fans as well.
Hot Chip will make their triumphant return to Australia in 2020, locking in some huge party shows across Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne as they immerse themselves in the warm praise surrounding their latest album A Bath Full Of Ecstasy. Don’t miss your chance to take a deep soak in the inviting sonic waters that surround Hot Chip at their first shows in this country since 2016. Tickets here.
Words by David James Young
Hot Chip, HOT DAMN! We’ve collated the best and biggest tracks from Hot Chip. Listen here.