2008:  Hot Chip, ‘Ready For The Floor’
2000s:  Hot Chip, ‘Over And Over’
2010:  Hot Chip, ‘One Life Stand’
2012:  Hot Chip, ‘Let Me Be Him’
So, basically, Hot Chip have been heading this way. Regular readers of Jukebox Junior (hi Mum!) will know my feelings about Hot Chip – they should be right up my street, but something’s always missing, at least over the course of an album – but I started to feel different this year, mainly down to a cracking Glastonbury set that was a ‘moment’ from start to finish. ‘Huarache Lights’, thumping organic rhythm, cheeky sample later repurposed, nerdy bounce, talkbox, joy of records, everything, was already my single of the year; the gig just made sure.
“All Hot Chip songs sound the same,” says Junior’s mum and then attempts to sing ‘Over And Over’ and ‘Ready For The Floor’ over the top. I don’t think that’s right. In fact I always argue they’re wildly variable – but, um, I’m just talking quality there, aren’t I? They have a certain mode and occasionally enhance it with a spine-shivering hook, that’s the Hot Chip way. A singles band? They’re probably the most consistent presence in my year-end charts but I can never go crazy about their albums, so yeah. Which makes it all the weirder that ‘Let Me Be Him’ is just an album track.
Half a dozen singles from an OK album and you don’t release the best track?
Junior’s kinder, if a bit avant-garde. She breakdances in slow motion then tries to imitate Hot Chip’s banks of synths on her Nintendo DS. Hey Alexis, Joe, Al, the others – you’re inspiring a whole new generation!
I don’t quite know where the song’s going. Let me be “him” – who? Your man? The guy with all the ideas? Everything I ever wanted to be? But words are just adornments when the central pull of ‘Let Me Be Him’ is a wordless chorus, somewhere between Enigma’s ‘Return To Innocence’ and New Kids On The Block’s ‘You Got It (The Right Stuff)’. It’s neither as hammy nor as airheaded as those though. It’s a euphoric, embracing release that draws us into Hot Chip’s circle, bathes us in the generosity that characterises all their best work. And this is one of their best.
Junior is 7. When we started our year-end countdowns on 7 December 2005 she was five months old and our No.20 single of the year was Gorillaz and De La Soul’s ‘Feel Good Inc.’.
In 2006 it was Secret Machines’ ‘Lightning Blue Eyes’
In 2007 it was Bat For Lashes’ ‘What’s A Girl To Do?’
In 2008 it was Hot Chip’s ‘Ready For The Floor’
In 2009 it was LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Bye Bye Bayou’
In 2010 it was Lykke Li’s ‘Get Some’
In 2011 it was Surkin’s ‘Ultra Light’
And now it’s Regina Spektor, exhuming a song from a decade ago and slapping on a bouncing, pop reggae rhythm track that you’d have expected to see Rockmelons fail to have a hit with in 1993. So it’s all about history today.
“I know this song,” says Junior, turning sharply to the stereo and draping her hair in her apple strudel and custard. “This is the best song ever,” projects Junior 2 (aged 4), hearing it for the first time. By the second chorus she knows all the words because she’s got a brain like that. Junior 3 (aged 2) just wants to get down and dance with her sisters. With every daughter we produce, this blog gets more complicated. That’s why I take six-month breaks – not laziness. No.
Spektor’s never been more than a kooky distant blip on my radar but What We Saw From The Cheap Seats is a deep-pile, affecting album and this is its shining pop moment. It also makes me want to hang out on Lexington and claim, “I love Paris in the rain”. I just love Paris when I’m not throwing up the previous night’s dinner from that place near Sacré Coeur. So that’s nice.
Because I have notes I know Junior said, “It’s beautiful, his voice sounds good,” and really, does anything need to be added to that?
Yes. I get paid by the word. Well, I don’t, but it’s worth maintaining standards just in case. Hot Chip would do well to remember that ethos and then they wouldn’t be thought of (by me) as the archetypal “occasionally good singles” band. I find nothing engaging about their albums and am frustrated by their inability to be the modern flamekeepers for the kind of cerebral synthpop I’ve always loved – they bear some of the chops, but rarely connect with the killer choruses I expect. When they do – ‘Over And Over’, ‘Ready For The Floor’, this – they devastate. ‘One Life Stand’ withholds the transcendent hook, so when it hits it hits hard. In the end, nuzzled by comic synth drama, it’s generous and, yeah, beautiful.
Sometimes I think I’m in a minority of 1. Hot Chip are music press darlings with a fiercely loyal following at odds with their mild music. They should be one of my favourites – ticking boxes from synth-pop devotees to mates of Green Gartside – but I think they’re just a bit weak. Short on robust tunes, long on prissy fannying about. No one agrees with me. Perhaps I’m empirically wrong.
But look, here’s ‘Over And Over’, matching ideas with execution, gallumphing along with real verve, weight and pure nonsense. It’s never even tiresome. You probably don’t agree with me.
Junior says: “Cool.” We valiantly try to sing along with words we don’t know during what musicologists refer to as “the middle bit”.
Best bit: That middle bit. With what sounds like a kazoo. Cool.
Junior sings, “This time, baby, I’ll be blaaaaaiiiiiiirrrrproof”. It sounds like an anthem for a resistant European Union.
She loves this song, loves its chorus whatever its words. This is understandable – gratifying, even – because ‘Bulletproof’’s toytown hook is one of the most delightful I’ve heard in years. It seems based on minimal effort (Elly Jackson pouting, sullen, around the studio) but the results are perfect, like an even more immediate ‘Ready For The Floor’. And like Hot Chip, La Roux’s cheap Casio sound is just that bit too tacky to sustain an album. Let’s hear it for the singles.
FITTING START, as this was my favourite single of the whole of, er, January. It seemed like a hard act to follow, but then the rest of the year turned up.
Still, it has all the hallmarks of a great early-year single, with a chorus that’s as catchy as a looping miss-hit to short leg (or something – does anyone know anything about cricket?) and lighter-than-air synths that lift the load of post-Christmas sluggishness. True to its name, it’s also a sop to your dancing feet – and Junior takes that to heart with a high-speed groove around the kitchen. There are songs in this chart that she’ll be more familiar with, so full sing-alongs will have to wait.
As for Hot Chip, this is a bright spot in a curiously patchy career. They possess semi-gems like ‘Over & Over’ – and really their style should be right up my street – but I don’t think they have it.