25 Masterworks: Hot Chip – In Our Heads

My Spin on Masterworks: 9 of 25

Hot Chip

In Our Heads

Domino, 2012

In Our HeadsEspecially since this article is dedicated to such a joyful album, I don’t want to sound maudlin in the first sentence, but putting it frankly, there’s no way I’ll live long enough to find all the recordings which have the potential to rank among my all-time favourites.

It’s an obvious point to make, but there are some existing masterpieces which I’ll never fully fall in love with, due to my own limited time and/or awareness. For all I know, there’s a band in existence at this very moment which is producing the kind of music that – if I could only hear it – would make my heart do multiple backflips and my ears wibble with delight. Sadly though, I may never discover them, either because they’ll never crack the consciousness of a wider audience, or because I’ll be too busy replaying established favourites to give time to seeking out new discoveries. And to be completely honest, I’m finding the latter to be the greater issue of the two.

As a listener, this is both a blatant flaw and a source of personal pride. A key reason as to why it takes me so long to discover a new artist is simply because I’m constantly returning to the comfort of music I already adore. It might be a slightly close-minded ethos, but because I’ve found such unflagging rewards in indulging old favourites, I feel no sadness at missing out on finding new artists to love when I can bank on a wealth of pre-discovered albums, which still serve as founts of joy after years and years of replays. And when it comes to the crunch, that’s how personal favourites are made. If I’d rather listen to Hot Chip’s In Our Heads – an album I can likely recount note-for-note – than force myself to give Bug by Dinosaur Jr. a chance to grow on me*, then that’s not a defect with my attention span. It’s just me being unable to resist the overwhelming allure of an album that I genuinely cherish to pieces. Give me enough time, and I could probably start humming along to ‘Freak Scene’, but Hot Chip plugged enough effervescence into ‘Don’t Deny Your Heart’ to give me tingles even after 67 rotations on iTunes, and it’s easily the more inviting option, even if it doesn’t end up going down in history as a stone-cold classic of the genre.

One hallmark of a great album should be that it seems impossible to tire of; a record which the listener should feel absolutely no guilt in replaying to death, even when its melodies have become as familiar as a voice of home. For me, Hot Chip’s In Our Heads typifies this appeal: it’s a record which I find so irresistible that I will consciously ignore other options in order to give it another spin, start-to-finish. It’s not perfect – it’s arguably not even worth a five-star review – but I love it. I’ve been suckered into its gravitational pull, and I haven’t strayed far from it over the last two years. Its staying power has secured it a place in my all-time list, and it hasn’t shed any of the sparkle with which it landed in 2012.

Hot Chip

Hot Chip, l-r: Alexis Taylor, Al Doyle, Owen Clarke, Felix Martin, Joe Goddard (photo: theguardian.com)

I started paying attention to this LCD-friendly five-piece on the back of 2010’s punchy (if patchy) One Life Stand, but it was with In Our Heads that Hot Chip found their heartbeat, and stole mine along for the ride. The group are at their most polished, most playful, and most comfortable – lyrically and musically – yet, investing their malleable techno with the kind of sincerity which sounds basic on the page, but pays off bigtime. Allegedly inspired by savouring the simple pleasures of domesticity and “settling down”, Alexis Taylor’s lyrics bequeath a strong sense of contentment to In Our Heads, but it’s a contentment which is tender and wide-eyed, rather than unassuming and bland. “When you wake me in the morning / That is my favourite thing,” he croons early on. “Your body is so warming /As it strikes a chord upon my skin.” Here, and at many other junctures in the album, Taylor and fellow keystone member Joe Goddard sidestep inertia by locating the wonder in the familiar, traversing long-term commitments by keeping their eyes open to the little moments that beg to be remembered.

And it all clicks, because it’s vague in the best possible way. For all its streamlines, the bubbling physicality of the music and the open-chested elation allow for an album open to the whims of the listener. This album can mean whatever I want it to mean; a tool which can be lazy in the wrong songwriter’s hands, but when smartly executed, can make music which sounds universally appealing and inclusive. All the while, it’s dressed with sumptuous songcraft: music that booms and flutters simultaneously, collaging elements of disco, synthpop and alt-rock to form a constantly shifting backdrop. It congeals into a colourful, kinetic, feelgood tonic, and for Hot Chip, it discloses their greatest evolution yet. The fun-but-awkward ironies of yesteryear have mostly dissolved away, leaving a pure solution which sounds like the group have finally left their cocoon, and become the full-blooded band they’ve always promised to be. Heard in the right context, this music can be more than agreeable; it can be revitalising. ‘How Do You Do?’ in particular sounds custom-made to tackle end-of-day blues, thumping into view with a tyre-thick pulse and working its way to a chorus that ricochets around the eardrums, culminating in Taylor’s reedy yelp of “you make me wanna live again!”

I know In Our Heads isn’t perfect, but I love it anyway, primarily because it is greater than the sum of its parts. I can’t say I’d ever pick out ‘Now There is Nothing’ or ‘End of the Earth’ as singular listens, but I’ll give them time in the context of the album because they’re warm-ups for the two-song kicker that perfectly closes proceedings. The penultimate odyssey ‘Let Me Be Him’ should be enough to warrant a listen from anybody; a tropical-flavoured epic whose emotional reach matches its admirable ambition, distilling beauty and a heady bliss over eight enchanting minutes. As with many of the songs from In Our Heads, it offers me so much to enjoy that I can see its appeal lasting for years to come. And even though I may risk sacrificing time to spend on a whole new favourite, it’s an appeal that I’ll happily fall for time and time again.

*I appreciate that Bug has garnered much praise, but ‘Don’t’ will always be shite to my ears.

In Our Heads
1 – Motion Sickness
2 – How Do You Do?
3 – Don’t Deny Your Heart
4 – Look at Where We Are
5 – These Chains
6 – Night and Day
7 – Flutes
8 – Now There is Nothing
9 – Ends of the Earth
10 – Let Me Be Him
11 – Always Been Your Love
 

22/10/2014

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Posted on October 22, 2014, in 25 Masterworks, The Music World and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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