Review: Hot Chip – Why Make Sense
Six albums in, and you know what you’re getting with Hot Chip. On Why Make Sense there’s no iconoclastic downing of synths for acoustic guitars, or sudden switch to country, although I suspect that Alexis Taylor would make an excellent country singer- but we’ll get back to that in a bit. Instead it’s business as usual, Taylor’s unique voice singing bittersweet love songs over twitching electronic pop that strives forwards, whilst referencing 40 years of soul, techno, disco and RnB. With few surprises in store the question boils down to a simple one – have Hot Chip got anything more to say?
Turns out the answer is yes- on Why Make Sense there’s as compelling argument as any that Hot Chip may be Britain’s most consistently excellent, as well as most criminally under rated. To say that there has been no progress is something of a misnomer, as there are concessions to the UK’s current love affair with deep house – moments such as the moody breakdown that closes Easy to Get, or the diva vocal wails that puncture Need You Know, a track that starts big and builds to a monument of hot, throbbing synth – but these are easily absorbed into the Hot Chip sound. Some of the tracks on the album could have come from the band 2, 5, or even 10 years ago. Make no mistake, this is no bad thing; they know what they’re doing, and they do it well.
Naturally the particularly Hot Chip signifiers and obsessions pop up – their tendency to pepper lyrics with references to urban culture is present from the start, with opener Huarache Lights name checking the most popular ravers trainer on road. The track itself is lyrically curious, a love song to the bands audience, a rumination on the dangers of soulless technology (“Machines are great, but// best when they come to life”), or a simple opening statement, encapsulated in the First Choice sample ‘I got something for your mind your body and your soul’ – it could be all three.
The inevitable slow jam slot is given over to White Wine & Fried Chicken. These moments always divide the ‘Chip’s fanbase, and tend to prove too schmaltzy for the indie kids who would rather the band stuck to monkeys and miniature cymbals – I can’t help but think these are the same people Down With Prince was aimed at so many years ago… Personally, I love the cut, I love it’s voiceboxed vocal yearning as Taylor sings “we dream ourselves into a new position// and waste a day with our blues and remission,” and it’s here, in this unabashed sentimentality that you start wondering just what sort of country album the band could make.
There are a couple of moments that are less pleasing – I feel like Joe Goddard has taken re-pitching his voice as far as it can go with Two Bears, and it adds little but a sense of wackiness on Cry For You. And I never thought I’d type this, but the De La Soul MC Pousdnous, a childhood hero, sounds a bit dated on Love is the Future. These are pretty minor quibbles though, and pale when set next to the ethereal joy of Alexis Taylor's voice. He's the kind of Great British frontman they rarely make anymore; short arse, big glasses, bit nervy, weird looking, voice of a fallen angel and lyrics with the depth of life.
Will Why Make Sense see Hot Chip get the recognition they deserve? It’s a strange question, but one that their fans almost always ask. The thing it, it’s quite possible they’ve already got all the recognition they want. They have a loyal fanbase, they keep making and selling excellent albums that sound like themselves and no one else, and they’ve seemingly done so with zero compromise. Having been in the game so long, why would they want to be playing mega-stadiums at this stage? Presumably they aren’t interested or they would have knocked out a bullshit EDM banger long ago. As it is, if they do get a chart hit, all the better. If they don’t they will have made another great album for the fans. If dumbing down your sound to make it big time is the sensible choice, the album title says it all; why make sense?