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Dancing in the dark

At first listen, Hot Chip’s spastic tracks present an image of cartoonish electronic producers playing...


At first listen, Hot Chip’s spastic tracks present an image of cartoonish electronic producers playing Frisbee with old school hip-hop, U.K. garage and soul records.

But Al Doyle, who handles guitar, synthesizer and percussion, explains that impression is too simplistic. While songs like Bendable Poseable — off latest album Made In The Dark — leap from speakers in full, jumpy, electronic glory, others are crooners or more straightforward pop songs. The band’s sound is rooted in traditional singer-songwriters, not the chirps and jittery snares of early jungle.

"Everyone in the band kind of builds up their ideas, gets out the loops in their heads, and that becomes the eventual sound of the songs," said Doyle. "But that gives you a false impression of Hot Chip. We may be expressing ourselves with synthesizers and stuff, but … when we grew up, we were listening to all the classic vocal singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen."

Doyle said a lot of people misinterpret the band, focusing too much on electronics rather than on their interest in vocal pop. When Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard formed Hot Chip, despite a background in garage and drum n' bass, the goal was "five people playing as band, not up on stage fiddling with knobs," said Doyle. The group tries to write pop songs — catchy and simple, and housing a tossed-off brilliance in their three-and-a-half-minute, verse-chorus-verse structure.

"Great pop music is a little bit of a throwaway — it’s accidentally classic," he said. "Some songs are really of their time, they capture what’s going on ... It’s like poetry. You have to have 40 lines and a certain rhyme scheme, and condense your thoughts into that."

Asked if Daft Punk classify as pop music for the 2000s, Doyle said not so much. While songs like Around The World are catchy, Daft Punk focus more on structure than pop’s instant gratification.
In contrast, a close listen to Hot Chip reveals the same carefully constructed layers, but taken as a whole, the songs work to achieve more of an organic sound.

"I love what they’re doing, but Daft Punk (are) more about the architecture of the songs. You can’t take Around The World and sit and play it with an acoustic guitar — well, maybe you can with that song, but not with their others ... I think with a pop song, you can sit down by yourself and play it on the guitar. The focus is on the song itself."

 
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