Concert preview: Hot Chip at First Avenue

By Peter Valelly

Amidst indie culture’s decade-long identity crisis – both culminating in and indefinitely extended by its ascent into full-spectrum mainstream dominance – few bands were able to avoid the traps of the scene’s balancing act between sad, soppy sincerity (Sufjan Stevens, Okkervil River, and other Blandy McBlandersons ad nauseam), wry humor (LCD Soundsystem’s early singles), kinetic appropriations of dance (Liars, Rapture, imitators), and semi-ironic dilettante-ish embrace of vacuous pop (see: Pitchfork’s mid-decade fixation on crack rap and dance-pop, plus the rock-crit establishment’s improbable outpouring of love for Paris Hiltons’ eponymous debut). Enter UK five-piece Hot Chip.Not only does Hot Chip’s note-perfect electro-pop both satisfy and annihilate every one of these spheres, it also puts to shame the career of nearly every other band working today. Hot Chip are, quite simply, perfect. They couch their relentless genre-splicing innovation in an embarrassingly rich pop sensibility. They bounce between pounding dance beats and ear-candy harmonizing, lyrical oddity and addictive hooks, often massaging all aural zones of pleasure and profundity within a matter of seconds. Over the course of three flawless full-lengths, the group has crafted improbable instant-classic dance singles, forward-thinking pop anthems, and some of the most idiosyncratically emotional ballads recorded in the last quarter century.

Cross-breeding genres like mad scientists, they’ve created re-appropriations and re-contextualizations of hip-hop, British hardcore rave, top-40 ear candy, synth-pop, indie rock, funk and disco so thoroughly textured that it sometimes feels that you’re listening to the precise cross-section of all that is worthy and interesting in contemporary music, period.

Yet at the same time, Hot Chip are one of a tiny handful of bands working from the rock and pop traditions who seem to have any understanding of sonic futurism. As their skittering beats collapse into fragile melodies and wonky synth shapes, you get a sense that this is the sound of electro-pop a la Devo and the Human League if, rather than fading completely out of style, that hyper-futuristic sound had instead gestated for over two decades, steadily absorbing other genres and scenes.

Because their studio sound depends far more heavily on live playing than their tunes’ chiseled precision suggests, Hot Chip’s music translates perfectly to the stage. Whether emitting sumptuous melancholy on “We’re Looking for a Lot of Love” or pulsing their way through the austere Brit-disco of “Boy from School,” Hot Chip are no doubt fully prepared to kick out the jams at First Ave on Friday night. Stay on campus at your own peril.