Hot Chip's Springsteen Cover - Are They Having A Laugh?

22 October 2015 | 2:28 pm | Ross Clelland

A little weird, but it works.

The rock and/or roll is a fickle beast. Fame can be fleeting. Particularly if you’re a footnote to begin with. Thus, joining the ranks of the fallen that includes such luminaries as the baby in the pool on the cover of Nevermind and Blind Melon’s Bee Girl (feel free to Google if necessary…), add to the list the kid in the leotard doing the eccentric dancing from that last few Sia appearances. With the graffiti writing itself through Alive (Monkey Puzzle/Inertia), could be Banksy as her next regular collaborator. Or not. The list of co-writers on the tune actually does include Adele among the inputs, and as you’d imagine the song gets all very histrionic and sweeping as love exits the premises again, and you’ve got to blame someone. Even if yourself. Perfectly constructed pop music – it being up to you if that’s a good thing or not.

And so to the proud – if trivial - trail of the ice-cream truck in musical history. The drummer of punk heroes, The Stranglers owned one – handy for carrying the instruments, and scaring the kiddies all at once. Ditto the KLF. And not even driving one in clip for 1979 could make Billy Corgan happy. Will Fraser A Gorman find career fulfilment dishing out gelato to the masses? Musing on the vagaries of fame and looking wistfully toward a lost relationship, as is often the way, Fraser declares he’ll Never Hold You (Like I Do) (Milk!) as the pistachio and walnut melts. Song has all his usual self-deprecating charm, and the usual cameos from musical friends, acquaintances, and one of the owners of the record label – you know, that indie chick in the flanno and Blunnies who seems everywhere… – to take you from romantic travails to tiramisu.

Or you can get older, and reform the band every few years just to top up the pension fund. Faith No More amp up their turn on the discomfort meter, and head to the retirement home where they’re remaking Cocoon, as written by Stephen King and directed by John Waters. Sunny Side Up (Ipecac) has Patton growling in your face as was ever thus, while the racket ebbs and flows behind him with the rattle of Zimmer Frames. All utterly familiar, and well inside their comfort zone. Band claims they don’t know if this is their last gasp, or could return to the studio next Thursday. Personally, I reckon they’ll still be trotting out Epic on the summer festival season of 2017 at the very least.

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But here in the future – and please, can we can the ‘Michael J. Fox with DeLorean’ memes as soon as possible, thanks – we find the kids are also embracing the past. Kind of. Asylums embrace the 20-year fashion cycle, happily referencing the grunge era although from a viewpoint of Southend, Essex rather than Aberdeen, Washington. Missing Persons (Cool Thing Recordings) seems to be having a bit of whinge about something, but just seems just all a bit clean and neat. The shirts and jeans pre-ripped, rather than through wear and tear. And the singer copping his haircut from The I.T. Crowd’s Maurice only reinforces the idea that this is ‘grunge’ for the people who call 5 Seconds Of Summer ‘punk’. The last part of that sentence makes me very sad.

Also mixing up their timeframes and retro-references, Hot Chip present a version of Springsteen’s mainstream breakthrough of 30(!) years ago. With a slightly jerky insistence – read that phrase as you will – Dancing In The Dark (Domino) unfurls in its synthesised way, as ever never quite sure if the Chippers are having a laugh or not. Particularly when at about the five-minute mark, Bruce dad-dances off with Courtney Cox and the buzzy syncopation of LCD Soundsystem’s All My Friends takes over the narrative. A little weird, but it works. Unlike some of the lonely-hearts videos scattered through, where your best hope is that most of these people never got to breed.

Lurking in the bushes on the line somewhere between Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher and Sting’s Don’t Stand So Close To Me – and slightly creepier than either - Kirin J. Callinan unravels The Teacher (Siberia), with discussion of dashed hopes and the thwarted erections of youth. Its restrained electro grooves – possibly held firmly in place with old school ties – has a touch of Berlin-era Bowie to it, with a fart of plastic disco brass that only adds to its dark charms. Mark Ronson appreciates the work of Mr Callinan to point of inviting him on his recent tour, although we feel the need to express some concern that Florence (either with or without Machine) will similarly be stirred by his talents when the Jack Ladder combo, of which he is a part, opens for them on the Opera House steps.

It’s always a pleasant surprise when a band proves to be a bit more than you may have originally thought. While appreciating they were more than able at what they do, Rolling Blackouts struck me as a pretty good straight up and down rock(-ish) band. So, Tender Is The Neck (Ivy League) – beside being a rather neat title in its own right – is something different. There’s an almost Go-Betweens awkward rattle to it, a ramshackle self-consciousness that is attractive when you realise they weren’t actually trying for that. Goes alright, it does.

Then there’s those who provoke the polarising reaction. Yes, The Cat Empire – loved by many smashing their UDL mixed cocktail tinnies at festivals the nation over for the sometimes forced fun they encourage, or the excuse to head to the bar or toilet queue at those self-same festivals for many others. They reconvene after the usual variety of solo work, side-projects, and sidetracks for Wolves (Two Shoes). Descriptive phrases for what it is includes ‘hints of Caribbean disco’ and note the use of a toy synthesiser to lead to the obligatory big singalong chorus where you can drape a sweaty and sunburnt arm over the person in the mosh next to you. Whether they welcome it or not being another question entirely.