Album Review | Pop

Hot Chip defies pigeonholing with ‘Why Make Sense?’

Steve Gullick

Something remarkable starts to come into view by the end of Hot Chip’s new album. “Why Make Sense?” makes it clear that as electronic dance music has cycled through various moments — rest in peace, chillwave — this English quintet has never been pigeonholed or tethered to a single strain in its 15-year history.

With each successive album, Hot Chip has managed to stay not ahead of the curve, but rather in its own lane altogether. Its sixth studio release in just over a decade, “Why Make Sense?” is another branch of the band’s tree, an album of infectious pop riddled with bigger questions and dilemmas that ripple well beyond the dance floor.

“Why make sense when the world around us refuses?” lead singer Alexis Taylor asks on the title track, a question whose answer he knows he’ll never understand. It’s no coincidence that the music is less kaleidoscopic and more streamlined to focus on the lyrics this time around.


“Tired of being myself / Caught up in this world / I never dreamed I could belong / To a state that don’t see right from wrong,” Taylor sings with weary resignation on “Need You Now” as the ’90s dance beats throb and swell behind him.

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Then again, Hot Chip’s brand of electronic pop has never been overly sleek or superficial. “Machines are great but best when they come to life,” Taylor announces, almost as an afterthought, on the opening “Huarache Lights.” The band’s live shows — relentless displays of muscular musicianship and joyful abandon — also dispel notions of what it means to be a synth-pop band.

Even with a more stripped-down palate, the album revels in refashioning the band’s influences. “Started Right” has an unmistakable echo of Stevie Wonder, and “White Wine and Fried Chicken” has the slow burn and seduction of ’70s soul. An elastic bass line anchors “Easy to Get,” while the guitar noodles to its own beat.

The album’s deluxe edition includes four bonus tracks, listed as an EP, each one a keeper that would have fit perfectly on the standard version. “Separate” even offers a solution to the tension and anxiety at play in some of these songs: “Separate the head from the body/ And dance with me.” (Out now)

James Reed

ESSENTIAL “Huarache Lights”

Hot Chip plays the House of Blues on June 4.

James Reed can be reached at