With its throbbing beats and massive hooks, electronic music always provides a rewarding experience for listeners on the dance floor, but its lyrical content rarely — OK, never — invites the kind of self-reflection found in other musical genres.
That long-standing disconnect might explain why so many fans have flocked to Hot Chip. The brainy British quintet, which marries joyous and infectious synth-based music with candid and introspective narratives, plays Oakland’s Fox Theater next week.
“The goal of the group was to somehow try and make beats and rhythms inspired by mainstream R&B and hip-hop, but with our songs on top of that, which were these real quiet, slow sounds,” says Alexis Taylor, one of the group’s two main songwriters along with Joe Goddard. “I’ve always felt like it’s strange to hide behind things. Music provides the opportunity to really find something deep inside, which is why our lyrics are so candid and direct.”
The group’s version of mixing the sacred and profane has been the backbone of five critically acclaimed albums, including the latest, “In Our Heads,” released in June.
“In Our Heads” opens with “Motion Sickness,” a slow-building churner that begins with plinky keyboards before expanding to a din of soaring, swelling synths and harmonized vocals.
Second track “How Do You Do?” synthesizes the Hot Chip credo perfectly, containing the disarming line, “A church is not for praying/It’s for celebrating the life that bleeds through the pain.”
Other highlights include the lead single, “Night and Day,” and the album closer, “Always Been Your Love,” a plaintive ballad that evokes a genuine admiration for 1990s R&B artists.
A group so steeped in electronic music could have difficulty moving from carefully arranged studio sounds to the unpredictability of live shows, but Hot Chip has a long history of raucous performances. Band members rotate between playing percussion, guitars and a fleet of keyboards — a live approach to electronic music that was wholly unique when the group began playing concerts earlier this decade.
With the bespectacled Taylor’s presence complemented by keyboardist Owen Clarke’s earnest commitment to awkward dance moves, Hot Chip’s shows straddle the line between profundity and tongue-in-cheek slyness.
“People who like Hot Chip will get something from our live shows that is different from our records,” Taylor says.
“Our performances are a little more visceral, with more guitar-playing and interlocking parts. It’s got an emotional punch, which is something we strive for.”