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Unlike other electro-pop music acts – the Pet Shop Boys with their elaborate theatrical sets, say, or Kraftwerk with their suits and robots – Hot Chip do not put on a stylised live show. On the contrary, the English quintet, each stationed behind a keyboard, look like maths PhD students at play: a wobbling tableau of shapeless t-shirts, trend-free casualwear and unembarrassed dancing. The only concession to stage costuming at this London gig was a pair of huge luminous glasses worn by the singer Alexis Taylor, who otherwise bore not the slightest resemblance to Elton John.
Thank goodness, then, their music is so good. The Warning, their second album and one of this year’s Mercury Prize nominations, is deliriously enjoyable, its songs a striking mix of chattering beats, vivid lyrics, intricate sonic scribbles and pop smarts. Live, the sound was beefed up, transforming “Colours” into a great ambient shimmer of a song and “No Fit State” into a busy dance music number. This was electronic music with literacy and wit, reminiscent of an update of Underworld. If the 2000s get their equivalent of “Born Slippy”, Underworld’s Trainspotting anthem, expect Hot Chip to provide it.
First they may have to temper their tendency towards over-elaboration. Although they amplified the beats on stage, their songs at times lost themselves in too much detail, like some convoluted if funky algebraic equation. The choice of a complicated, discordant-yet-tuneful track, “Careful”, as their first encore song was bold but perverse: it seemed to put a desire for unpredictability ahead of the requirements of the audience’s mood.
The final track suggested that Hot Chip know what it takes to triumph in a live setting. “Over and Over”, a charming ode to the joy of musical repetition, was turned into a rampaging monster of a club track. No need for flashy visuals or an extravagant light show: the music was spectacular enough in its own right. ★★★☆☆
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