The 2006 Mercury Prize nominees Hot Chip formed in 2001 with the intention of making "folk music with synthesisers"; not a terribly original idea, even then. Their debut of 2004, Coming On Strong, actually came on quite shyly with subtle, half-tempo tributes to life in south-west London: "Riding in my Peugeot, hey/ Riding with the top down/ Riding round Putney". Their name references the humble fried potato, but also the art of making music in the computer age.
The Mercury-nominated album The Warning has certainly shifted Hot Chip up a couple of gears, with its acknowledgement that dancing is the great democratic urge. There are no Kraftwerk über-concepts driving it, but there's a healthy dose of the nerdy electro-popsters Devo.
The lead singer Alexis Taylor, in ironic fluorescent glasses and white sneakers, is the visual embodiment of this potential. Arrays of synthesiser-keyboards, drum machines, percussion instruments and a guitar are their musical arsenal. They launch instantly into their enthusiastic head-bopping and marching, all the while glued to their keyboards in a way that seemingly necessitates robotic movements.
Taylor shows superb timing on the ballad to alienation "And I Was a Boy From School". His disarming voice, the melancholy-tinged lyrics and the vocal harmonies seal their individuality, the accompanying low tenor of Joe Goddard creating a signature "hollow" vocal sound.
Unfortunately, this quality is not as powerfully realised live as on the album, their sonic collages losing some of their intricacy and magic in such a large venue. But bridges and build-ups are all there, and the percussion breaks are well timed. The Astoria cannot help but groove along, joining in with whoops and cheers.
The loss of momentum after "Colours" is perhaps for want of enough new, fast motorik material, but they save their best for last with their ingenious hit of the moment "Over and Over". Here, their reflexive wit shines with "Like a monkey with a miniature cymbal/ The joy of repetition really is in you/ When you look this way I really am with you".
What's most endearing is that Hot Chip mean to have fun, and it's contagious. This is a creative, grassroots approach to pop reminiscent of New Order, with a light shade of that band's darkness. It's an exciting mix - intelligent, kooky, strange and wonderful.
Touring to 21 October ( www.hotchip.co.uk)Reuse content