Hot Hot Heat

Happiness Ltd. (Reprise Records)

The epic, soaring sonics on Happiness Ltd., Hot Hot Heat's latest effort, owe a debt to some tricked-out production that results in a number of satisfying swells. The strongest candidates for airplay are front-loaded for instant gratification, while the rest of the album needs time to ferment. Comparisons to the Cure notwithstanding, Steve Bays' gangly, nervous voice on "5 Times Out of a Hundred" has more to do with the Libertines than with Robert Smith, and the pleading first single "Let Me In" rips a page out of the Verve's songbook with its full orchestra and chiming keyboards. But it's the album opener/title track whose connection is completely natural, like it's been in heavy rotation for the past decade. The song's phrasing is a masterful dance, but Bays' sighing shows an emo residue. As their collective psyche anticipates the ending, the boys burst through with one more thing they've been meaning to say. With inventive lyric-building and instrumentation displayed like baubles, Hot Hot Heat has delivered a plump sound on Happiness that only arenas can house.

 
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