For over a decade, British electronic synth-pop band Hot Chip has flirted with the edges of big-time success. Part of it, in my opinion, is that while they appear to be genuinely talented, they haven’t been too good at first impressions. Chalk it up to their collective off-beat sense of humor, perhaps, but between their occasional cartoonish mixes and the unfortunate imagery of videos like “I Feel Better,” it’s been sometimes difficult to take them too seriously.
Their latest studio release In Our Heads should hopefully remedy that—that is, if they don’t sabotage themselves in the process.
What do I mean by that? Case in point regarding the “first impressions” remark made earlier: the album’s first single, “Night and Day.” It’s the only real throw-away song on the album, a collection of sonic ridiculousness that the album could really have done without—yet here it is, the album’s official “calling card.” (Really, guys? You put the worst song up first?) It’s enough to reinforce the band’s caricature image; you can almost hear the critics saying, “Oh, well…here we go again.”
Thankfully (and mercifully), if you can get past the fiasco of that first single, the rest of the album comprises some of Hot Chip’s finest and most mature work to date. The tone of the record strikes a near-perfect blend between the playfulness of their earlier work and the emotiveness of One Life Stand, resulting in a collection of songs that are reflective and danceable all at once. High points on the record include the catchy, disco-influenced “How Do You Do?”, the haunting “These Chains,” and the seven-minute-long “Flutes.”
If these guys would get out of their own way once in awhile, a lot more people would see what Hot Chip is capable of as a band. Overall, In Our Heads gives me hope that that day is closer at hand.
ALBUM RATING: 3.5 Stars (out of five)