Hot Chip now looking bad but sounding celebratory
It’s a long shot, but the question has to be asked: did Hot Chip title its latest album In Our Heads as a nod to the Rolling Stones’ 1965 LP Out of Our Heads? Reached at his East London flat, Hot Chip multi-instrumentalist Al Doyle says the answer is no, but he seems tickled at the thought. “That’s great,” he says. “I should have gone with that.”
The real answer is that In Our Heads is the result of long sessions in the studio with producer Mark Ralph, which Doyle describes as “quite a contained experience”. Also, the 11-song collection finds the long-running electronic-pop act in a particularly introspective place. Hot Chip’s main songwriters, Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard, who are both married dads, use the lyrics as an opportunity to reflect on the passage of time, the things that fall away from one’s life, and the things that endure. On “Look at Where We Are”, Taylor sums things up neatly: “Look at where we are/Remember where we started out/Never gonna be without each other’s love again.”
In other words, In Our Heads is the work of a band as mature in its outlook as it is dedicated to its music. “It always feels a little bit weird for me when bands are clearly in their mid to late 30s or whatever and still talking about partying and girls and blah blah blah,” Doyle says. “Maybe that’s the case for some people, but for us it just wouldn’t feel right or appropriate, because it’s just not currently the experience. Would that it were.”
The 32-year-old Doyle admits that all this stuff about aging hits a bit close to home. “It’s happening a little too fast,” he says. “That’s the concern at the moment. Things are starting to fall apart a little bit, physically. I’m talking about myself now. When we were just starting out we weren’t terribly young in the rock ’n’ roll game, I guess. We were in our mid 20s. I’ve just been looking, strangely enough, at a few old photographs of us, and I was just thinking, ‘Jesus Christ, that doesn’t look like we were five years younger.’ It’s like I’m looking at a child, basically, and it’s incredibly depressing.”
Despite its weighty themes, much of In Our Heads sounds downright celebratory, with tracks like the sleekly propulsive “How Do You Do?” and the electro-disco workout “Night and Day” aimed squarely at the dance floor. Those cuts are offset by more esoteric fare; witness the shifting tempos of the prog-lite ballad “Now There Is Nothing”, and the seven-minute “Flutes”, with its chanting children and gym-class instructions. Doyle figures none of that will faze the typical Hot Chip fan—whoever that is.
“I think we, in our minds, have this platonic ideal of a listener who is actually interested in all the music that we like as five people together and gets all these different references,” he says. “And of course that doesn’t really exist, but you kind of have to make music for that imaginary listener. If you start trying to second-guess what people may or may not like, that way madness lies.”
Hot Chip plays the Commodore Ballroom on Saturday and Sunday (September 15 and 16).