On the eve of their seventh album, the best British pop act of their generation talk about two decades of music-making
A quiet Friday afternoon by Londons Regents Canal. Two dads who have known each other since they were 11 theyre now 39 are having lunch without the kids. One is a smiling, broad-shouldered bear in a pink T-shirt. The other is smaller and bespectacled, hiding under a baseball cap. They look slightly hipsterish, but blend into the background seamlessly. A huge yellow bag and rucksack under the table contain their rather different outfits for later that day.
Five hours later, Alexis Taylor is in front of thousands at the All Points East festival in Victoria Park, Hackney, his cap removed to reveal rainbow-coloured hair, a DayGlo lifejacket with holes around the nipples swaddling his body. Joe Goddard, meanwhile, is rocking back and forth behind a bank of synthesisers, wearing a colourful jacket with a pattern by artist Jeremy Deller (also unfolded from the dad bags). Joining them are the rest of their crazily dressed band: guitarist Al Doyle in a linen tunic and trousers like a latterday apostle, brightly clothed multi-instrumentalist Owen Clarke, and synthesiser player Felix Martin smiling under his mop of madcap curls. Rob Smoughton (bass, congas, silvery beard, straw boater) and Leo Taylor (drums, lime-green top with pagan symbols) complete the live line-up.
Behold Hot Chip, the greatest British group of their generation. They look like cartoon characters, and for their devoted fanbase, thats where their appeal begins. The bands music and image suggests a poppier, ravier version of Talking Heads. Gloriously ordinary weirdos, essentially, projecting their most extravagant selves on stage and video. Their fashion is the 21st-century equivalent of the Pet Shop Boys Japanese jackets and Boy caps, and they have an art-school archness that is easy to appreciate, as their songs are never too serious, their live sets infused with humour.
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Their best songs, from 2006s Boy from School to 2010s One Life Stand to their stunning new single, Melody of Love, undercut playfulness with a heart-tugging melancholy. Taylors voice a high, pure peal in the tradition of Paul Heaton, Neil Tennant and Belle and Sebastians Stuart Murdoch is the heart, while Goddards electronic wizardry provides their guts and pulse.