Hot Chip – In Our Heads
The fifth album from British electropop outfit Hot Chip, In Our Heads, immediately appears less grandiose than One Life Stand, and if not concerned with more modest themes then its themes are at least presented in a more modest way. The piano and strings that signposted seriousness across the first few tracks of their previous album give way to brighter electronics, warmer synths and more direct choruses this time around.
I’d be the last person to say that you can’t write an electropop epic, but Hot Chip’s return to something more sonically moderate is a more welcome departure than taking things a step further and actually bringing in an orchestra. It’s true that One Life Stand was their most rigidly cohesive release so, while not quite returning to the earnest/dancefloor, ‘And I Was a Boy From School’/‘Ready for the Floor’ dichotomy of The Warning or Made in the Dark, In Our Heads melds their moments of overt sincerity with the instant gratification of catchiness more convincingly than ever and without the songs suffering for the concept.
After a bit of build up ‘Motion Sickness’ comes through with the kind of midi synth sound straight out of an early 90s videogame, while ‘How Do You Do’ makes concessions to Hot Chip’s lingering interest in disco. Kraftwerk style synths turn up at the beginning of ‘Don’t Deny Your Heart’ before fake brass and new wave guitars in the chorus and colour everything Human League. The more subdued ballad ‘Look at Where We Are’ is another take on the stable monogamous relationships documented on One Life Stand, though stripped of that record’s pomp.
Those themes crop up again on ‘These Chains’ backed by a house beat and manipulated vocals. It’s Hot Chip realising the gravity of their ideas is just as easily conveyed without the crutch of string and piano signifiers to designate importance. The kind of domesticity explored on the album isn’t Greek mythology or the frayed edges of a Mike Leigh film, it’s an everyday though optimistic and unabashed rejoice for the very presence of those close to you, with ‘These Chains’ taking that concept to the extent of Joe Goddard’s young daughter’s voice appearing as a manipulated sample.
First single ‘Night and Day’ is as solid an introduction to In Our Heads as any and ‘Flutes’, one of two tracks longer than seven minutes, gives the key and drum work some time to breathe and space out. The other long one, ‘Let Me Be Him’, includes a set of harmonic vocal “woahs” in the chorus that remind me of Enya’s ‘Orinoco Flow’ (Sail Away) in a good way. Neither of the tracks feel as long as they are and it’s worth listening to the latter to see if you hear the comparison and ever take my opinion seriously again.
In Our Heads isn’t bigger than One Life Stand, it’s broader, cohesive in a looser way and ultimately a better album. It stands the chance of having the broadest appeal and points to a place where there’s no excuse for Hot Chip not getting frequent airplay on mainstream radio. They’re catchy, bright and interesting enough, and any track on In Our Heads is worth ten of the mindless, bland, empty-fucking-nothing tracks that David Guetta periodically shits into the public sphere. It’s not a case of bashing big commercial dance like its cold commercialism has just been uncovered, rather it’s that Hot Chip are better than most heavyweight mainstream pop acts on that genre’s own terms, not just in terms of quirky indie appeal.
And not to have a go at Guetta again but I’m sure you know more people that love their partner or kids than people who are, for example, made of titanium, or refer to a woman as a “sexy bitch” after explaining they find it difficult to verbally express themselves. I mean you wouldn’t even talk to a bellend like that in real life. So In Our Heads, not the best record of the year, but one of the most feasibly deserving of chart appeal.