The key theme of Hot Chip’s career has always been balance—their blend of organic and electronic elements, of silliness and poignancy. And when the creative scales even out (like on their front-to-back 2006 triumph, The Warning), they’re the most forward-thinking, intellectually engaging dance-related band on the planet. Why Make Sense? exemplifies that balance better than any of their previous five LPs. It’s goofy, yet sexy, accessible and experimental, and often all at once.
Take, for example, “Easy to Get”—a suave electro-pop banger about life-sustaining monogamy set on a glittery dance floor. “Fear doesn’t live here anymore / Yes, it’s clear – I am yours, my dear,” Alexis Taylor croons in his boyish tenor, backed by a menagerie of analog synths and Joe Goddard’s faux-loverman monotone (“Meet me on the dance floor”). On ‘90s synth-pop throwback “Love Is the Future,” the band somehow avoids a clusterfuck as they weave in barnyard fiddle, a jazzy upright bass groove, and a guest verse from De La Soul’s Posdnuos, all while making the sprawl feel seamless.
Part of the album’s palpable focus stems from its construction. Hot Chip entered the recording with a clear plan of attack, tracking the songs together as a full band—main quintet Taylor, Goddard, Owen Clarke, Felix Martin, and Al Doyle, joined by touring drummer Sarah Jones and multi-instrumentalist Rob Smoughton—and attempting to strip back the synthetic layers and smothering production that defines some of their densest work. These songs breathe: even expansive centerpiece “Dark Night,” which incorporates orchestral-disco strings and psychedelic guitar tones into its elastic groove, builds patiently to its soaring sing-along choruses.
Why Make Sense? revolves around Taylor and Goddard’s usual themes of romantic devotion and friendship. But here, those words are often tinted with modern dread, like the world-weary meditations of the brooding “Need You Now” (“Caught up in this world / I never dreamed I could belong to a state that don’t see right from wrong”) and the title-track’s kraut-punk throb. “Why make sense when the world around us refuses?” Taylor asks over clattering synths and drums. The universe may be illogical, but Hot Chip has never sounded more purposeful.