Hot Chip | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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I apparently hear something in Hot Chip that a lot of other people don't. I've been loaning their 2004 debut, Coming On Strong (released in the U.S. last year on Astralwerks), to some of my more strictly indie-rock friends, but the filter-swept keys and dance beats seem to be a little too "techno" for them. Reviewers compare Hot Chip to Ween, which is fair enough: the British group shares Ween's fascination with tacky flange effects and cheap-sounding drum machines. (Plus, one of their singers sounds like one of the Weens. Plus, they name-check Ween on one of their songs.) But for me, Coming On Strong succeeds on two other distinct levels. There's the funny stuff, like their taste for cheese-heavy synth sounds, or the Nate Dogg-inspired chorus to "Playboy," which rhymes "drivin' in my Peugeot" and "blazin' out Yo La Tengo." But I also hear a layer of emotion behind their clowning: all their music references function as tributes to music's power. Yo La Tengo, for instance, pushes the song's protagonist past his small-town existence and gives him the kind of humble transcendence that only a three-minute pop song can provide. Maybe I'm reading too much into things. But I'm certain that "Crap Kraft Dinner" is a lot more amazing than any song that's literally about a box of mac 'n' cheese ought to be. Walter Meego and Bald Eagle spin. Mon 3/20, 9 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

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