- Can a band ever have too many ideas? That is the novel question posed by In Our Heads, Hot Chip's fifth album. Clearly, these are men of unusual creative energies. Just look at their solo work and side-projects: New Build, About Group, 2 Bears; Alexis Taylor's lo-fi limited-edition album, Rubbed Out; Joe Goddard's transcendent dance floor anthem of 2011, "Gabriel." And that's before we get to their remixes and guest vocals.
In theory, such activity is all grist to the Hot Chip mill. They have always been a band of disparate influences, an improbable crate-digging fusion of UK garage, modern R&B, minimal techno, folk rock, pop. However, if on their masterful second album, The Warning, they toggled with ease between indie melancholy ("Boy from School") and club-tooled bombs ("Over & Over"), while always sounding primarily like Hot Chip, then subsequent albums have sounded cluttered, disjointed. As if everyone involved was trying to have their say, cram in their influences and amalgamate cleverly, rather than writing with a sure intuition.
What Hot Chip do best is quirky electro pop. Compact emotive nuggets wherein their huge record collections are sublimated to the song. On recent albums, such clean filtering ("I Feel Better," "Ready for the Floor," "One Life Stand") has been at a premium. In Our Heads is better, more coherent, but there is still, you know, just too much stuff going on.
Naturally, the good tracks are sublime. In the sprightly, tightly-wound cooing "How Do You Do," Hot Chip, uniquely, have produced a paean to domestic bliss which will rip-up dance floors. The lurching, teetering, dangerously-amped "Night & Day," sees them coolly rewire Zomby's unstable synths in the pursuit of great pop. Taylor's mid-song monologue, in the guise of a dismayed DJ fending off pestering clubbers ("...I like Zapp not Zappa... we're not in Ayia Napa..."), is brilliant. There is much else that is good, if not truly great. On opener "Motion Sickness" and the skippy, swung "These Chains," Hot Chip are efficiently Hot Chip. "Flutes," meanwhile, is a sterling attempt to revisit the sounds of classic Chicago house without drifting into straight revivalism.
If attempting, almost, the same trick three songs later, on "Let Me Be Him," is too much of a good thing, it is better than the familiar overreaching, archness even, that creeps in elsewhere. "Don't Deny Your Heart" is a pointless homage to glossy, plastic '80s pop. "Look At Where We Are" proves that Hot Chip can make the ballad their own, electronically, but fellow slow-burner, "Now There Is Nothing," sounds like it's been beamed in from another record. A Paul McCartney solo album, sadly. And, somehow, it all ends with "Always Been Your Love," a song horribly in hock to FM rock and Fleetwood Mac. Can a band have too many ideas? Yes.
01. Motion Sickness
02. How Do You Do
03. Don't Deny Your Heart
04. Look At Where We Are
05. These Chains
06. Night and Day
08. Now There Is Nothing
09. Ends of the Earth
10. Let Me Be Him
11. Alaways Been Your Love