Album Review: Hot Chip - Why Make Sense?

Album Reviews
Gerrit Feenstra

"Connection... correction." If you summed up UK dance veterans Hot Chip in an obscure two word phrase, I think this bridge from "Love Is The Future" would do quite nicely. It's between these two poles of connection and correction that Hot Chip have operated for over a decade. From "I Was The Boy From School" to "Need You Now", Hot Chip have been growing into the great beyond and learning how to be themselves. On Made In The Dark, they tried to figure themselves out to little resolve (phenomenal album, just very little closure). On One Life Stand, they made a declaration with all the weight it could hold, but questioned it again on In Our Heads. But now, it seems like clarity has rung the bell inside the heart of Hot Chip, as on their latest, Why Make Sense?, they ask the ultimate question: who cares? In their most straightforward, honest, and raw record since The Warning, Hot Chip take it back to basics to find a confidence that they've never found themselves embracing before. The result is a beautiful and nonsensical mess, and it's a kaleidoscope of melancholy disco heaven - it is Hot Chip after all.

The men of Hot Chip have been quite busy since they collaborated on In Our Heads back in 2012. Alexis Taylor has lent vocals to multiple projects and released another album with About Group. Al Doyle released another record with New Build and toured it alongside fellow former LCD Soundsystem collaborator Pat Mahoney (as Museum of Love). Oh, right, and Joe Goddard dropped another fantastic 2 Bears record with Raf Rundell, sporting the incredible single "Not This Time". So coming back together for Why Make Sense?, Hot Chip decided to cut things back to basics, trying to wrap up every track on the record on first impression and instinct, letting it exist in the rawest form possible. Of course you have to remember that this is Hot Chip, a band that thrives on some of the absolute best production around, so "stripped down" is a term that applies here in a very relative sense. But listening to Why Make Sense?, you can here it - the band we see here is operating in their primal state and the musical result is like a pile of uncut diamonds. "Need You Now" is the best straightforward house track we've heard from Hot Chip in ages. "Easy To Get" hosts Al Doyle showing off on guitar in brilliant ways that I don't think he ever has in this band. "Cry For You" is a lean, mean envy machine that harks back to the Made In The Dark sound without all of the polish. "Love Is The Future" features a rap verse from Pos of De La Soul!!!! Seriously, if all of the above aren't convincing you to stop reading this review and go listen now, I don't know what to tell you.

Lyrically, Hot Chip build on In Our Heads with brilliant bravado. Where In Our Heads asks questions and expects answers, Why Make Sense? answers questions posed in the midst of struggle. "Started Right" is maybe the most tear-jerking hot chip song since "Brothers", taking marital vows and turning them into a deadly disco burner, speaking nothing but encouragement in times of turmoil. "White Wine and Fried Chicken" is a slow dance make for quiet nights, when remembering the simplicity of love is the best solution. The Joe Goddard-led "Dark Night" is a brilliant and lush cry of self-awareness, admitting a tendency towards introversion and obscurity over solving a miscommunication.

But the real takeaways on Why Make Sense? are the album's bookends. "Huarache Lights" could be Hot Chip's theme song, in all honesty. The song begins with an admittance of occasional self doubt, then reconciles it to the brilliant light on stage and the joy brought by the audience. In "Huarache Lights", Hot Chip make their chosen vocation one of joy rather than struggle. Truly, they have something for the mind, the body, and the soul. Then, after eight songs dedicated to relational development, the record ends with the title track, easily the weirdest, most left field track we've heard from Hot Chip in a while. "Why make sense when the world around refuses?" The song's drums are a heavy rock tempo, showcasing Taylor's vocals in an almost otherwise a cappella setting, with some weirdly oscillating synthesizers behind him. But slowly, Al and Joe join him in an epic chorus to end the record with a newfound knowledge about the world that they want to share with all of us. "It's the clouding of our minds... it's the morning of our lives." Yes, this life is confusing sometimes, and connection is difficult. But the correction at hand isn't a correction of our behavior - rather, it's a correction of perception. We just need to embrace ourselves and love with reckless abandon, and the rest will take care of itself.

"Our love is the future." Hearing that line, I really can't believe it's taken Hot Chip this long to write it. I feel the band has been saying its equivalent for the better part of their career. The strange mixture of love and distance in Hot Chip's music is reminiscent of something we all experience on the daily. The mixture of passion and insecurity, the paradox of relational grace and lacking self acceptance - these are the basis of the human experience in love. And yet, Why Make Sense? is the perfect album to house this track. This declaration deserves to be bookended by the confidence and infectious bliss that the record shows off elsewhere. Hot Chip are laying all their cards out on the table, not hoping to win - they just want to quit the game and go dance. Never thinking too much, never trying to be anything its not, Why Make Sense? is a textbook Hot Chip album in every way, but the lyrical themes happening herein make it one of the strongest of the bunch. Six albums deep, Hot Chip show no signs of slowing up, and with time, they are only becoming more comfortable in their own, weird skin. It's a lesson we could all learn something from, and lucky for us, it's an easy one to dance to.

Why Make Sense? is out now on Domino Recordings. Grab it this week at your local record store on CD or vinyl and you could score the bonus Separate EP, which includes "Burning Up" (the fantastic jam linked above) and other solid gold. You can (and should) catch Hot Chip this weekend at Sasquatch! Music Festival. It will be legendary.

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