Hot Hot Heat have arrived on our doorsteps again. Pulling angular moves in the same quirky vein as Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello, but with more punch and sizzle. If you liked Hot Hot Heat’s Knock Knock Knock EP for it’s catchy melodies, and breakthrough album Make Up The Breakdown for its abrasive yet feel-good nature, then you’ll love this third album by the Canadian quartet.
However a progression is apparent: where the EP was darker and punkier and the debut was fairly raw, Elevator is more slick and shiny. But this is fairly subtle – it’s still the same pounding retro-punk with hefty hooks, jerky guitars, breakneck time changes and killer keyboards. Steve Bay’s seesaw vocals are still warm and alarmist, rising up to a full-throated rasp in choruses. There is still that nervous energy like a tightly wound spring. And the sound is still as big and jumpy as Bay’s Marc Bolan hair.
What makes Hot Hot Heat so damned cute is that it’s punk dressed in pop clothing – it has the heart of rebelliousness but with the mind of radio-friendly melodies and easy-on-the-ear compositions. So you feel their fire, and indeed their heat, but it’s safe and it’s friendly.
The opening two tracks (after the atmospheric instrumental introduction) provide one of the strongest openings to an album this year. Running Out Of Time is a raucous monolith of a first track. It’s rich in explosive beats and, if you like disco punk, so infectious you’ll find yourself jumping about your living room.
Then it’s single Goodnight Goodnight, dished out for free via a download on their website. I pity the poor girl who this is about, as it’s fairly strong in its ‘see ya never wanna be ya’ sentiment. Yet it’s another cracker with arty high staccato riffs, multi-tempo pounding drums and a vocal melody reminiscent of a very steep rollarcoaster ride – fluid and fast yet it crunches the stomach. It has the same urgency as Mr Brightside by The Killers, there’s even a ghost of a similar guitar riff, but hey.
There’s also more intelligent word play from the bristling troupe. It’s a Hot Hot Heat staple to come up with a similar lyrical wit to Oscar Wilde. Little gems I’ve plucked out are: “I’ve given up on social niceties, I threw them out when I threw out your keys” (Goodnight Goodnight), “The only thing constant was the constant reminder that she’d never change” (Ladies And Gentleman), “I was half of a man nearly half of the time” (Elevator), and rhyming ‘laughing’ with ‘caffeine’ is either inspired or risible. I’ll plump for the former.
Mid-album however the tracks sound like they’re cut from the same cloth, both chord and composition-wise. It’s your bog standard euphoric choruses with some variations in keyboard sounds but otherwise it all sounds fairly similar. But what they lack in diversity they more than make up for in catchy melodies and pure unadulterated passion for the songs.
The album is sealed off nicely with what sounds like a forthcoming single, Elevator. The title track, Hot Hot Heat certainly go out with a bang. Using a lift as a metaphor for an up-down relationship, they infuse the song with a fluid anthemic chorus that I can already hear being shrieked at festivals this summer. They can be my bell boys any day!
So this album may be moulded from a well-known template but Hot Hot Heat still know how to freshen things up – like shaking an old coveted duvet outside. It’s a smart album full of little gems and rife with catchy tunes. It may be nothing revolutionary, but why change a winning team?