Hot Hot Heat – Hot Hot Heat (Kaw-Liga Records)

Written by on June 28, 2016

Vancouver’s Hot Hot Heat know a little more than most about the fickle nature of the ‘indie / alternative’ scene. Since bursting into view with the irresistible ‘Bandages’ single and accompanying album Make Up The Breakdown way back in the early part of this century, they have made some excellent records that have certainly not always been met with the acclaim that they deserve.

This fifth, eponymous album is also sadly their swansong. Hot Hot Heat has been some five years in the making and follows up the more experimental sound of 2010’s Future Breeds and pitches the band right back to what they do best – spiky, slightly off-kilter indie-pop with killer hooks by the bucketload.

Current single ‘Kid Who Stays In The Picture’ gets things underway in fairly relaxed style for Hot Hot Heat, synths washing over the guitars  while Steve Bays’ distinctive vocals, like a sort of more cheery Robert Smith, saunter over the top.

‘Modern Mind’ keeps the synth backing, beginning like prime-time 1980s Human League before spluttering into a typically angular HHH track; it is one of the best songs on the album and would have arguably been a better choice as lead single. ‘Pulling Levers’ meanwhile has a real We Are Scientists feel to it and is another highly commercial song with its chorus insisting that “We’re a million miles apart”. It could be a dig at those who unwisely shoved the band to one side so quickly, ready to look for the Next Big Thing.

There are traces of all of the band’s past sounds throughout the record;  ‘Alaskan Midnight Sun’ bears the stop-start hallmark of Make Up The Breakdown, ‘Comeback Of The Century’ epitomises the straight ahead pop of second album Elevator, (which was actually the highest-charting UK Hot Hot Heat album, fact fans), while undoubted album highlight ‘Magnitude’ could be straight off the band’s undervalued masterpiece, third album Happiness Ltd. That record missed the UK Top 100 but contained the band’s best, most accomplished set of songs – truly one to track down if you want to invest the £0.01 (plus P&P) that a second hand copy currently goes for on Amazon.

There are hints of XTC too in Hot Hot Heat’s music, a case in point being ‘Sad Sad Situation’ the penultimate track which is one of many that sounds like a potential single.

Final track, and presumably the final ever Hot Hot Heat song, ‘The Memory’s Here’ is an unusual choice of closer; a slight anti-climax and quite a slight song when the listener may have been expecting a grand finale. It is probably the most subtle track here, its melody not as immediately obvious as the others on show.

Hot Hot Heat is a fitting sign-off from a band who always threw themselves wholly into each chapter in their career and never failed to come up with the goods. Missing them already.

Hot Hot Heat – Kid Who Stays In The Picture

Released 24th June 2016.

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