Hot Chip, O2 Academy Brixton, London

Unlikely lads graduate in style

Reviewed,Rob Sharp
Wednesday 03 March 2010 01:00

Like their music and apparent demeanor, the rise of Hot Chip has been somewhat laid back. There was some buzz surrounding them as students, then it was four years before Garth Jennings' Art Attack vision of "Boy from School" was collaged across MTV2 (it is arguably, another four years down the line, still their best track). A 2007 appearance on the shortlist for the Mercury Prize followed, accompanied by zealous soapboxing by the odd well-placed music critic. They now have four records up the sleeves of their thrift-store duffel coats, and might casually drop into conversation the name of the Brick Lane recording studio which they now own. Without troubling ourselves over the legal minutiae of their property holdings, Hot Chip have snuck under the wire fence surrounding the playing fields of their wildest dreams.

The incremental nature of their success, you could say, has given their widening fan base a sense of ownership. The idea that, at least initially, they divided opinion – they were always hyped, but defied categorisation, and opted for a somewhat twee, cottage-industry aesthetic and sound – entrenched the loyalty of those who loved them. Tonight they are greeted with the kind of affection normally accompanying much more experienced bands, like Lemon Jelly, for example, who graced Brixton's stage in 2005 to similarly apoplectic fervour. That Hot Chip have already moved through a musical journey – from lap-pop jokers to hit-makers – is both surprising and indubitable.

Within the band, their set-up remains democratic. While Alexis Taylor provides the majority of the singing, standing opposite fellow lynchpin Joe Goddard, who delivers furry, kind, vocals in response, no singular band member is a front man. The group's drummer is on a raised platform alongside Felix Martin; Owen Clarke shuffles stage left. Al Doyle does most of the talking, announcing songs and thanking the crowd from among a forest of keyboards, steel pans and cowbells. There is palpable anticipation when Bergen-based lo-fi freshmen Casiokids warm up (a day later they are replaced by Simian Mobile Disco); by the end of the evening hands are held aloft like an extended congregation watching a gospel choir.

The lads (can you call Hot Chip lads?) begin with "Boy from School"; "Ready for the Floor" and "Over and Over" are also aired, along with material from their latest album, One Life Stand, including "Hand Me Down Your Love" and "Alley Cats", Doyle, Clarke and Taylor swapping from keyboards, to guitar, to percussion and then back again. Live they are typically rawer and more beatsy than their recorded work; they also know how to work a dance crowd, segueing between climaxes and adapting their sound to fit the mood.

Goddard, tonight wearing a suit in acknowledgment of his future role as a musical statesman, is someone who feeds on the cutting edge of dubstep, UK garage and techno (the Bristol-based dubstep label Punch Drunk Records, for example, is a known favourite and doesn't sound a two-hour drive up the M4 away from his tracks) but also appreciates his Al Greens, his Bobby Womacks, his Brian Wilsons. He is as happy admiring Timbaland as he is Susan Boyle, and his enthusiasm pervades everything Hot Chip do (the mooted demise of BBC6 Music is as tragic for the fact that a late night radio show there would one day have been his natural home). As for the band, the current musical landscape sees home-produced electronica as both cheap and fashionable. Within this kingdom – somehow, and with a minimalist beat and automated chirrup – Hot Chip have become royalty.

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