Hot Hot Heat's Happiness Ltd.

Delightful oddballs subvert their instincts to impress teenage girls

These Canucks don't get enough credit— their 2002 Sub Pop debut Make Up the Breakdown is one of the new millennium's most oddball-catchy pieces of music. True, Elevator, their 2005 major-label follow-up, scraped against the Top 40, but it sacrificed some of the quirky fun along the way, as if their meds were squashing their psychosis. Still, they proved against the odds that it's possible to make a smoother record without coming on like wimps (e.g. Rilo Kiley).

Now, Hot Hot Heat are even more ambitious, and not artistically—they're drooling to headline bigger venues, even if it means they'll no longer be new-wave faves for teens who weren't alive for the first wave. And while still hooked on the '80s, the band has now turned to power ballads and bigger productions (with aid from mixer Tim Palmer, a U2 helpmate). So while "5 Times Out of 100" and "My Best Friend" revive old times, you miss Steve Bay's unhinged vocals and jagged keyboards elsewhere when HHH instead try to compensate with a funky chant- rocker ("Give Up") or a big-drama Raspberries tribute (the title track). And the good times get squashed entirely by aching ballads ("Let Me In," "Waiting for Nothing") that are too long at four minutes, while "Harmonicas & Tambourines" gets buried in a swamp of guitars and keyboards (though HHH redeem themselves with a cowbell elsewhere). Less would add up to more for these guys—the little girls would still understand.


Hot Hot Heat play Webster Hall October 13, websterhall.com
 
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