Beards, Blazers & Glasses or How Hot Chip Prove that My Sense of Rhythm Isn't Racist
It happened again. The dancing thing. I'm not quite sure how and I'm not sure why. I know we talked about this the other day but I'm not ready to move on until we get to the bottom of it. Because this whole thing is getting embarrassing. Seeing Hot Chip two times in three days and grooving (yes, grooving) at both of them? What's next, traveling to Berlin to snort Molly off a chick named Molly? Dressing in all-black, slicking my hair to the right and listening to only Neu! records? Actually learning the meaning of the phrase "deep German House?"* The ramifications are endless and ghoulish.
The thing is, I actually do dance, it just takes a lot, and when I do, it's invariably to music made by black people. You know that Chappelle skit where Dave brings John Mayer and his electric gee-tar around the barber shop and everyone starts heckling him. That's me. Sure, part of it's because John Mayer really fucking sucks, but really, put on some hard drums in broad daylight when I'm totally sober and I'll suddenly find myself swaying uncontrollably, beat-boxing and asking ?uestlove to borrow his afro pick. **
That's not to say that I don't enjoy music made by whitey. I do. I love the Dead as much as the next acid burn-out, but taking me to a Dark Star Orchestra show is just asking for a satirical monologue involving my personal imitation of the "hippie twirl" (think somewhere between the interpretative dance recital in The Big Lebowski and Elaine's huck-a-buck on Seinfeld). And though I enjoy a decent amount of electronic music, I've never come across large enough quantities of ecstasy to get down to it (wink, hint, nudge, e-mail.)
I Promise This is Not Me (Or Do I?)
Eventually, I long ago started suspecting that my sense of rhythm might be racist. Of course, that's not the sort of thing you tell people wantonly. Hell, you don't want to even say it too loud to yourself. People might hear you and label you a bigot or worse, they'll kidnap you, tie you up and leave you trapped in a broom closet with nothing but a stack of Barry Manilow videos and some tap shoes. This blog is veering dangerously into Stuff White People Like Territory--I won't go further. But Hot Chip. They're my own dance Jackie Robinson, except whiter, British and with a lead singer named Alexis who sings about how "Hot Chip will break your legs," despite making David Eckstein look like Barry Bonds.
Three months ago, Randall Roberts declared Hot Chip the most entertaining band in the world. He was right. Every time I see My Morning Jacket, my jaw drops and everything stands stone-still. But when I see Hot Chip, I can't remember a damned thing. I'm too lost in the moment to write a note or stop moving for even a fraction of a second. They swap instruments and constantly rotate around the stage, not in that Arcade Fire "oh boy, aren't we having fun" schtick, but because they can't stop moving either.
Their albums are good but they're just starting points. Live, Hot Chip shatter the spines of their songs, elongating them, speeding them up, setting them into alignment. Their influences boil to the surface yet remain seamless. You can see why their DJ Kicks tape included consecutive jams from Noze, Positive K and Ray Charles, back-to-back-back. They're just as techno as they are hip-hop and just as hip-hop as they are soul/funk. And any way, you break it down, they're pretty awesome. Their date Monday night at the Mayan was their last American date for a long time. It's a good thing. I really don't think I'm ready to move to Berlin yet.
* Deep German House got its start when a pair of Konigsberg DJ's named Ich Rolf Strang, began throwing all-night raves at Immanuel Kant's house.
**Definitions of sober, beat-boxing and afro picks may vary.