Like fellow Brits Wild Beasts, Hot Chip has always dabbled in a world of disparate influences somewhat removed from the whims of current music. Most of the London electro-poppers’ colorful club anthems are equal parts Prince and Devo, a trapped-in-time combination of campy fun and star-gazing sincerity mined from ‘80s dance-pop. The lack of any substantial irony or snark is exactly why the boy band-skewering video for One Life Stand‘s “I Feel Better” worked so well: The song itself was painfully uncool, a relic of slick, ‘90s techno-pop that was more tribute than satire, and undoubtedly the labor of a band with a lot of balls. But while their fifth album, In Our Heads, finds Hot Chip continuing that we’ll-do-whatever-the-hell-we-want tradition, the pulse found on One Life Stand‘s kaleidoscopic rave has weakened, and the undeniable sound of apathy is beginning to creep up around the polished edges.
Yes, Hot Chip has largely managed to stay untouched by the capricious trends of modern music’s blog-driven culture, but In Our Heads suggests that its members have ultimately succumbed to two other seemingly inevitable artistic phenomena: boredom and ripping off their own work. The band has never produced the most organic of sounds, but their new offerings take those electronic inclinations to the coldest extreme, as if they’ve relegated the recording process solely to keyboard presets. As a result, In Our Heads feels like a cut-and-paste job, with whole parts either lifted from previous Hot Chip tracks (the slow, Auto-Tuned vocal line of “Let Me Be Him” is a clear hat-tip to “I Feel Better”) or blatant counterfeits of their ‘80s-era influences (the rhythmic synths of “Don’t Deny Your Heart” sound like they’re lifted straight from “Thriller”).
The only reliable human standby amid the parade of dreary automation is Alexis Taylor’s voice, which remains as pristine and angelic as ever, and fully capable of lifting a few solid entries like “These Chains,” “Look at Where We Are,” and “Flutes” into something more endearing and memorable. Unfortunately, on the heels of One Life Stand, a few bright spots aren’t good enough. As the heartfelt funk of “Ready for the Floor” and “I Was a Boy from School” proved, Hot Chip is built primarily on good beats and a sweet, devil-may-care sass, neither of which the groups seems interested in delivering on In Our Heads.