Why Make Sense?
As the sun threatens to poke its shiny little face from behind the clouds, here comes a summertime album so summery it has me scraping last year’s leavings from the barbeque in my filthy festival footwear.
Carbonised cow carcass aside, Hot Chip will likely cement their status as the go-to electro- pop-house- dance act for music festivals this summer with the inevitable success of their new album Why Make Sense?. With performances due at Glastonbury, T- in the Park and Lollapalooza, expect to see Lauren Laverne and Mark Radcliffe presenting a highlight reel of irritatingly good looking young people bopping away in the dark to some immensely danceable beats.
This latest release Why Make Sense? is a much more chilled affair than 2008’s Made in the Dark or 2012’s In Our Heads. In fact, it’s darker. It still retains a distinctive Hot Chip sound but tonally and lyrically, this album feels much more introspective. Alexis Taylor has such a distinctive and delicate voice that the melancholy is tangible in songs such as Dark Night: the sadness lifted by a hopeful major key change.
The first single to be lifted is Huarache Lights, a pulsating mid-tempo floor shaker that feels like the most familiar of the new tracks. From here on in we have hints of 70s disco with the clavinet led Started Right. Or the falsetto styled, Timberlake-esque Love is The Future interjected with a rap from De La Soul’s very own Pos. The anthemic stand out track is album closer Why Make Sense? staccato crescendos lifting and soaring. This is a summer album, but the sun is setting: a golden glow of red twilight skies.
Taylor excels on So Much Further to Go which is tender and soft. It’s practically a ballad however- not what I expected at all. Whilst there certainly seems to be a cathartic process at work here Taylor’s voice is incredibly engaging and induced a kind of empathy from my second and third listen.
I say second and third because my initial expectations of the album were slightly different. Promotional photos of Hot Chip suggested a Kraftwerk style post-punk sparseness and the pastel pink of the album cover evokes an inverted image of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasure cover art. Furthermore the album title is a bit close to Talking Head’s Stop Making Sense don’t you think? Although the album doesn’t share its intensity, tempo or angular riffs it does feel powerful. We still have deep beats and catchy pop choruses. Whilst the album is interesting and engaging it feels almost, if you can excuse the pun, too laid back to excite. I don’t think that’s the intention here however.
Mostly moogs and micro-korgs, big bass-synths and break-beats, this is a beautifully produced and thoughtfully crafted record. This is largely due to the Sarah Jones’ live drum kit which blesses the synthetic ambience with an organic soul. This and Taylor’s often humorous often tragic song-writing show how much this band has grown.
It’s a good album but not the one I expected. And that’s just what I like in a band.
Review by Paul Bentley