Hot Chip

TrackAlbum / EP / Single
Crap Kraft DinnerComing On Strong
Boy From SchoolThe Warning
My PianoDJ-Kicks: Hot Chip
Hold OnMade In The Dark
I Feel BetterOne Life Stand
Don't Deny Your HeartIn Our Heads
DoctorIn Our Heads (Special Edition)
Dark And StormyDomino 10" single
SeparateWhy Make Sense? (bonus EP Separate)
Straight To The MorningDomino 10" single

Hot Chip photo

(l-r) Felix Martin, Joe Goddard, Al Doyle, Alexis Taylor, Owen Clarke

 

 

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Hot Chip playlist

 

 

Contributor: Mark Bowers

I cast my mind back to October 2004. I am still in my twenties and we take a trip over to York to watch an MTV Zane Lowe showcase gig at York Fibbers. We get my parents to babysit and take my teenage brother and his girlfriend at the time. Headlining are Kasabian, on the cusp of a big breakthrough. I’d heard of the Go Team before and I liked them, but I wasn’t familiar with this Hot Chip lot. Their performance on the night was later summarised by York Press: “Icelandic electro-freaks, Hot Chip. Imagine an annoying Super Mario Bros game tune played full blast.”

It’s fair to say I didn’t agree. And where are they from again?

My musical taste had waxed and waned since an initial obsession with the Madchester scene at 14. I’d dumped all my skateboarding gear and switched to trudging round in red kicker boots, hidden under enormous flared jeans as I loitered around Affleck’s Palace on a Saturday afternoon. A clever local promoter started to put on some amazing gigs in my hometown of Halifax. By the time I was about 16, I’d seen Pulp twice in a tiny function room of the leisure centre, followed by an outdoor festival the following summer, headlining were my teenage favourites New FADs. I’ve now been hooked on music for over 30 years.

Thanks for bearing with the preamble (it actually has some relevance for later on) and I will now start my assessment of the top ten best tunes from my favourite band in order of release.

Frustratingly, I only bought CDs up until 2005, switching to vinyl shortly after this. The fact I don’t own an original vinyl copy of Coming On Strong irks me somewhat (the first presses go for hundreds on discogs), but I will still start with my favourite from this album – Crap Kraft Dinner.

Early Hot Chip was so raw and stripped back and this is such a beautifully deep song, interspersed with some comedic use of English slang (as runs through the whole album). The vocal delivery from Joe and Alexis, and how they swap and change between bass and falsetto, tends to be the backbone of most Hot Chip tunes to this very day. The two founding members have been friends since school; Alexis Taylor has gone on to be a successful solo artist as well as collaborator with many others, spanning a surprisingly wide array of musical genres (James Yorkston a particular standout) and has also been in About Group. Joe Goddard has also had an extremely successful solo career while running dance label Greco-Roman, in addition to being one of the 2 Bears with Raf Rundell. Like many on this album Crap Kraft Dinner has a real air of fragility, furthered by its simple drum loops and bedroom production style, such an honest song. “I haven’t got the time for a jerk-off loser”.

Here’s a bonus version of the Social Singing Choir (Moshi Moshi Records) covering it which is lush!

Next up, the second single from their second album The Warning, Boy From School, released in 2006. This track possibly sits tight behind Over And Over as a tune recognisable by most music savvy folk (fan or not) and one of Hot Chip’s other core hits from the late noughties. The repetitive groove breaks for a lovely call and response for the final bridge, recalling feelings of loss, confusion and helplessness: “I got, I got lost. You said this was the way back?”

Out of all the band members I’m actually not sure what Owen Clarke does when the band are between albums; he seems to be able to play most instruments, DJ and has been heavily involved with a lot of the artwork and design concepts. Erol Alkan gave the tune a rather heavy club sprinkle, one of the best remixes IMO. I’ve seen the alternate live version played a good few times (more recently) where the main riff is slowed down making it resemble French Kiss, then sped back up again! Sublime.

2007 saw Hot Chip deliver a fantastic compilation album under the DJ-Kicks series (the Henrik Schwarz release from the previous year is absolute perfection). The collection was an extremely broad mix of eclectic tunes, put together seamlessly which is unsurprising as the whole band are accomplished DJs. Kicking off with an amazing track by Rob Smoughton under his Grovesnor moniker, Nite Moves sounds like a perfect piece of electro-pop. Rob is a staple live band member to this day, leading a fabulous swamp rock band Black Peaches and has played with Scritti Politti and is generally a highly talented multi-instrumentalist, adding a great dynamic to the band. A 12″ release of My Piano accompanied the compilation; to me this seemed like a perfect stepping stone from the general feel of The Warning and as they entered into a slightly more experimental phase with Made In The Dark released the following year. I have fond memories playing this compilation on repeat as I drove the family to France on holiday, everyone asleep and just a Red Bull for company.

The success of singles from The Warning had spawned US tours, top 50 singles and firmly placed the band as a very popular indie/electro act. Their third album, Made In The Dark, contained a few songs that seemed to continue in the same vein from the last (Ready For The Floor, Touch Too Much) but a few sounded much heavier, experimental and expansive such as Shake A Fist, Bendable Poseable and my No.1 live favourite Hold On. I’ll never tire of seeing this one performed, Joe’s shoulders always rocking away – check out this ace version from Jools Holland back in 2009. Such is my love of this tune that I actually learned how to play it on the acoustic guitar. I have fond memories of an alcohol induced, impromptu performance with my brother! In fact, we’ve been at a gig together around the time they toured this album and had to laugh when they played Brothers.

Two years later and One Life Stand is released, early in 2010. My overall opinion would be that this one was sounding a little more balanced (in its overall musical style) than the previous. It again retained a mix of the expectedly heartfelt, slower ballad numbers which would be stacked alongside up-tempo singles. Standout bangers included the album title and the superb I Feel Better. This was released as a single along with an absolutely batshit video, directed by Peter Serafinowicz. Another lyrically moving and thought-provoking tune, I can flit between feeling a totally euphoric celebration of love, but equally a sobering reminder of the sadness of the world where we seek solace from our loved ones. The steel pans on this tune are fantastic (Fimber Bravo) …

Sticking nicely to that two-year cycle, never disappointing those expectant fans, In Our Heads was released in 2012. It was about this time the live band (and the overall sound) expanded even more, and through the experiences of side projects and DJing they really seemed to step up a gear. Expert drum ninja Sarah Jones joined the regular band members from this tour and continued for about five years (until previous recording drummer Leo Taylor rejoined recently for live duties). Sarah has drummed in some really good bands including Bat for Lashes, New Young Pony Club and Bloc Party and now plays with Harry Styles. She has recently played with NZCA Lines and drummed on the most recent album. This expansion to seven members opened up a much deeper live recreation of these tracks (and others). The whole album is fantastically produced, brilliant harmonies and as usual some standout singles traversing both bangers and ballads. Flutes remains a solid choice on the live circuit today but my selection is Don’t Deny Your Heart. The lyrics here are pretty self-explanatory and it’s definitely one that fits in the ‘feel good’ category, uplifting and cheerful standout. The accompanying, animated football video (Peter Serafinowicz again) is hilarious but the non-edited track must absolutely be played out here, otherwise you miss the ridiculously funky outro, which is an absolute triumph!

I have the special edition of In Our Heads, which comes with a 7″ of the delightfully sunny bonus track Doctor. This one is still fighting it out with Hold On as my No.1! An absolutely glorious tune, I can’t actually remember hearing it live which is quite tragic. I think I’ve read that it may have been recorded on a day when the weather was quite terrible, but they bottled something special that day – such a lovely summery vibe! Amazing steel pans, an absolutely thundering bass line and, while it’s funky and resembles a calypso version of William Onyeabor, I love the wonky, angular post/punk type guitars. I tweeted Pete Paphides a few years ago when he was pulling together a Hot Chip special and was very proud to introduce him to this one!

The Dark And Stormy 10″ is a great standalone track, extremely direct and pacey. The US version was combined with the special edition/extras from In Our Heads but the UK version just carried the track and an alternate B-side of Look At Where We Are. Bearing in mind how the four previous albums stood alone, it again shows how the band constantly push and reinvent but hold on to the core Hot Chip sound. This one feels almost krautrocky with such a motorik beat holding throughout; note that the drums are played by Charles Hayward from This Heat/Gong/About Group.

In 2015, the sixth studio album Why Make Sense? was released. The lead singles from this included the absolutely thumping bass stabs of a beaming Huarache Lights and the emotionally reassuring Need You Now, a lovely deep house tinged track featuring a strong lead sample from US RNB act Sinnamon. Given the band’s appreciation of art and fashion, you’ll find all Hot Chips albums and videos have been extremely creative. All the sleeves for this album were unique, as they went through a special design process which would mean the parallel lines would shift for each print, as well as 500 different colours. I actually own two copies of the special edition, the second being a signed edition courtesy of the band/label donating records to aid flood recovery fundraising in Hebden Bridge.

The special edition of Why Make Sense? came with a bonus 4-track EP called Separate. The title track is my choice, with Dark Night from the standard LP closely behind. Something really drew me to this EP; although I loved the album I probably played this just as much while also loving Move With Me (lush clavinet, goes a bit jazzy and reminds me of Jean-Luc Ponty). I often wonder if the band were close to a double LP and therefore decided to portion off these four quality tunes. Separate is a most interesting track, the lead bass is really fluid and reminiscent of Talking Heads. The vocals are slightly different from your stock Hot Chip tune, Joe’s vocals sound deliberately strained/altered and I think it’s Al Doyle repeating the chorus of “Separate the head from the body”. It would be remiss not to mention that multi-instrumentalist Al balances his schedule, also being part of LCD Soundsystem as well as his own band New Build, who released two incredibly good LPs along with his fellow Hot Chipper, Felix Martin. The last quarter of the song shifts into something altogether different, “Tell me a story about when you were young”, it’s a beautiful juxtaposition and a really joyous ending.

Sticking to the rule of 10 tracks for Toppermost means I am unfortunately going to have to skip a selection from 2019 release, Hot Chip’s seventh studio album A Bath Full Of Ecstasy. Working with people outside the normal circle definitely pushed the band on the creative process for this one, an immersive album alluding to its title, warm and soothing but also deep and moving. The release date coincided with the extremely tragic death of its main producer Philippe Zdar (Cassius, Motorbass and many others). It’s not that I can’t offer up any favourite from Bath Full – it’s yet again another wonderful Hot Chip album – but the recently released Straight To The Morning will allow me to tie things up perfectly.

Autumn 2020, lockdown sets in and we are all feeling pretty miserable but some musical superheroes fly in from nowhere, releasing a super collaboration with (legend) Jarvis Cocker and a super fun video to boot (get your kids to watch it!)! I’m not surprised Jarvis wanted to get involved; the band have worked with an incredible roster of artists and I think it’s all these musical connections that makes Hot Chip so special to me. All the band’s ‘extracurricular’ activities have been a wonderfully safe bet and I have discovered numerous other bands and musicians as a result of this. I have a vivid memory of seeing a brown suited Jarvis emerge from the back of a White Transit van at that Halifax gig back in 1991. Nice of him to materialize again and join my lifetime’s musical dots.

 

 

Hot Chip official website

Hot Chip at Domino Records

Hot Chip Discography

Hot Chip biography (AllMusic)

Mark Bowers has been a huge fan of music since he was a child, with early memories of playing Prince tapes on a tiny machine before switching to vinyl on a catalogue-ordered Amstrad stack. He enjoys many genres including jazz, house, electronic, psych, indie and folk/americana. While writing may not come naturally, Mark has enjoyed attempting the occasional gig review on Birthday Cake For Breakfast. You can find him on twitter @gilbertshilling.

TopperPost #919

4 Comments

  1. Glenn Smith
    Nov 29, 2020

    I just had a good listen to your damn fine list while driving, sure they can drop into a powerful groove as we all know but they also have a fine ear for melody those Hot Chip fellas. I’d think Over and Over and especially Motion Sickness are notable omissions, but who cares as this is a fine tribute. And one final thought, listening to HC always leads me back to another listen to the Beta Band.

    • Mark
      Dec 5, 2020

      Thanks for the message Glenn, I’m a huge fan of the Beta Band too (and Steve Mason’s solo work)!

  2. Guy Hornsby
    Jan 12, 2021

    This is absolutely lovely Mark, just as I’d expect. Like me I’m sure you could pick twice as many of these roll call of favourites. Some memories of their last tour in Manchester are keeping me longing for the end of all of this. It’s lovely to see Don’t Deny in there, and was especially great to see them play it in Dreamland. That extended EP from Why Make Sense is a massive favourite too.

    • Mark
      Jan 12, 2021

      Thanks Guy, very pleased that you liked it given your knowledge and love of the band. Lets hope normality resumes before the New Order gig #insertprayingemoji#

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