Hot Chip’s lyric sheet reveals its cultural obsessions

Hot Chip is a bunch of geeks. Over the course of three albums — 2004's Coming On Strong, 2006's The Warning, and the new Made in the Dark — the British five-piece has been crafting electronic music that manages to be both brainy and poppy.

In a dance music scene that often takes itself too seriously, Hot Chip plays court jester, not just with kiddie-corner instrumentation and cartoonish videos, but also with wry subject matter drawn out by Alexis Taylor in his soft yawn of a voice.

Made in the Dark is the group's best, albeit most downbeat, album yet, spiking the usual rampant irony with earnest admissions. Taylor is morbidly obsessed with pop-culture pastiche, dissecting hip-hop clichés while fantasizing about Prince, Yo La Tengo, and pro wrestling. Here are some of the most memorable lyrical moments in Hot Chip's career so far.

Lyric: "I'm like Stevie Wonder, but I can see things."

Song: "Keep Fallin'"

Album: Coming On Strong

This typically slinky gem explores musical contradictions, from blind protégés to sighted people who can't play their instruments. It also finds Hot Chip lamenting its estrangement from a proper hip-hop lifestyle: "We make no money for us to spend on yachts and boats and blades and drugs and scooters."

Lyric: "It's me versus you in love."

Song: "Wrestlers"

Album: Made in the Dark

Taylor rattles off wrestling terminology and likens his relationship to TV's Monday night knockdowns: "Don't fight dirty/Don't hit me with the chair." Arguably Hot Chip's funniest song that still maintains its poignancy.

Lyric: "You're my number one guy."

Song: "Ready for the Floor"

Album: Made in the Dark

Taylor lifts the foreboding compliment Jack Palance's crime lord gives Jack Nicholson's Joker in Batman, lamenting miscommunication over Hot Chip's typically bubbly, elastic pop. The video pays further tribute to the single's cinematic inspiration; Taylor dresses up as the Joker and his bandmate gets shot by a gun-shaped mic.

Lyric: "Drivin' in my Peugeot/20-inch rims with the chrome now/Blazin' out Yo La Tengo/Drivin' round poppin' with the top down."

Song: "Playboy"

Album: Coming On Strong

Thick and syrupy, this song seems mournful until you catch the ridiculous lyrics, skewering bookish indie rock and European automobiles alongside materialistic rap. Arriving amid a flood of Billboard hits saluting rims and other ride-pimping extras, this track is just one of several Hot Chip songs ostensibly about cruising. See also: "Shining Escalade" ("Fly around the world with you, my boo") and "You Ride, We Ride, In My Ride," both on Coming On Strong.

Lyric: "Hot Chip will break your legs/Snap off your head/Hot Chip will put you down/Under the ground."

Song: "The Warning"

Album: The Warning

Just when you think Hot Chip comprises pale, knob-twiddling wimps, the group hits you with a hard-boiled, rap-worthy refrain. Them's fighting words.

Lyric: "Since we fell apart/I've been nothing but blue."

Song: "Made in the Dark"

Album: Made in the Dark

Over a weepy ballad as slow as it is sparse, Taylor opens with a universal sentiment that's impossible to shake. That it comes just before the guitar-kicked single "One Pure Thought" makes the lament all the more heart-wrenching.

 
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