East London’s the Chap are tailor-made for the over-educated, “creative economy” audiences of their Shoreditch and Dalston stamping grounds. The quintet have developed a similar sleight-of-hand to LCD Soundsystem: Even as they draw attention to their nerdy, loser status (their strapline: “the most interesting pop failure in history”), they outfox and outfunk the hipsters at their own game. Contrariness is built into their DNA: They’re led by a German expat whose urbane drawl is almost campily English; their cheap live-band sound is as rigorously regimented as Kraftwerk or Can; and their lyrics, waggling with ironic rabbit ears, often reveal a deeply-embedded romantic heart.
Chap songs are built on tautly metronomic pulses, busy meshes of lo-fi synths and clipped ’80s-funk guitar licks, with fembot backing vox from Claire Hope and Berit Immig. We Are Nobody, the self-deprecatingly titled follow-up to 2011′s “greatest hits” compilation We Are The Best, is loaded with all of the above, as well as hints of early-’80s boffin bands such as New Musik and The Flying Lizards, if they had been keeping tabs on the latest techno microstyles. On opener “Rhythm King,” Johannes Von WeizsÃ¤cker manages the trick of belittling vacuous dancefloor chat while also expressing the ecstatic, wordless abandon that a darkened dancehall can provide.
If his deadpan delivery gets pushed to the edge on “Look At the Girl” – in which an idyllic hairspray-ad vision turns uncomfortably sour – The Chap’s infectious sense of pacing and the quirky twists and turns of their self-produced sound world are compelling reasons to ignore the arched eyebrows. “Writing’s for cowards, talking’s for men/ Cowards write songs and never do what needs to be done,” confesses Von WeizsÃ¤cker in silvered multitrack harmonies on “What Did We Do?” We Are Nobody is the revenge of the cowards.