The guys in Hot Chip are only too aware that they are not high-school locker pin-up material. But that has never stopped the quintet of English synth-nerds from fancying themselves as the kinds of cheek-boned pop idols guys like me followed avidly in the pages of Smash Hits 25 years ago. Over the last 10 years, they’ve become indie darlings while perfecting a dance pop sound that, for hipsters, comes dangerously (and for me, deliciously) close to something you might hear on Top 40 radio with their fantastic latest album One Life Stand.
In the hilariously confounding video for the album’s second single “I Feel Better”, an alluring Auto-tune seduction over skipping beats and syncopated synth-strings, the guys play on the notion that they sound like Top 40 but aren’t by portraying themselves as Britain’s Next Boy Band. Six-pack abs and blank supermodel eyes abound! In fact, the parody is so dead-on that it actually fools one of the video’s commenters (“Don’t like boy bands, that said I think English ones are Much better than American ones.”). Those who actually know Hot Chip know immediately it’s a joke, but then the video turns on itself and the joke gets weirdly violent. Only then the video turns on itself again. And gets weirdly violent again.
Maybe the band is making fun of boy bands, or maybe they’re paying tribute to their own Inner Boy Band, or maybe the band is just video-game laser-zapping the notion that there’s any meaningful distinction to be made between the pop of Hot Chip and the pop of, say, Taio Cruz. And if there is a meaningful distinction to be made there, we need to be ready to see that distinction erased. Interestingly enough, the video implicates, and destroys, not just “Hot Chip” (the boy band), and “Hot Chip” (the resurrected boy band with new lead singer), but also the audience for both (including the real life Hot Chip, who get zapped around 3:25), which is obliterated with the cold efficiency of War of the Worlds martians.