Hot Hot Heat, The 22-20s
August 26, 2010
Better than: Sitting alone in your efficiency apartment making mixtapes.
It's not hard to believe that Canadian New Wavers Hot Hot Heat have been around for over 10 years now. Credit the fact that the band was quick to step into the limelight; when your first record is as perfect and timely as 2002's Make Up the Breakdown (Sub Pop), people tend to take notice. Clocking in at only around 30 minutes, Breakdown catapulted them to pop success with the lead single "Bandages" seemingly everywhere at a time when good music was hard to come by.
But after such a successful debut, HHH has had trouble continuing the magic. Lead singer Steve Bays' warbling, almost out-of-control voice has become much more polished and less edgey through the years, which isn't always a good thing. And, after two major label releases with Sire/Warner Bros, Hot Hot Heat now finds themselves back on an indie label for album number four, looking to reclaim the energy and sense of urgency that made Breakdown so fantastic.
The self-produced Future Breeds (Dangerbird) comes close to that vibe, but ultimately falls short. This is not a band that needs too many down-tempo songs, and, unfortunately, there are plenty on this record. Momentum has always been their MO, and seeing them live is a perfect example of this in action.
HHH played a no-nonsense, no-filler set with very little between-song banter at The Loft last night. Forward motion was the theme of the evening. The only chatter between songs was for "more vocals"as the first three songs were hampered by sound problems. "No, Not Now" was turned into an impromptu, extended synth-filled jam session when all of the mics cut out halfway through the song. No one seemed to mind, though, further proving the point that Dallas loves the synthesizer.
Maybe it was the sheer power of Steve Bays' voice that caused all sorts of problems with the sound system. He was on point the entire night, hitting every note while swaying his keyboard back and forth. New tracks "Nobody's Accusing You" and "Goddess on the Prairie" were impressive live, and are two of the highlights from Future Breeds.
This is a band with no shortage of hooks and melodies, and, really, Hot Hot Heat is still quite good at what they do.
But one couldn't help but notice the band's lack of excitement for some of their newer material. And judging from crowd reaction, the feeling was mutual. Clocking in at just about an hour, it was clear Hot Hot Heat's goal with their live show, much like their albums is get in, get out.
Personal Bias: There was probably no album that got more spins at my efficiency apartment in college than Makeup the Breakdown. There haven't been too many albums in recent memory that so adequately romanticize the condition of the twentysomething. I would have been perfectly happy if they just played that album all the way through. Two times.
Random Note: Nothing turns me off more than when a band complains about the sound. It's bothering us, too; no need to shoot the wheels off the entire show even more. Also, if I could grow my hair out to a curly 'fro like Steve Bays, I would.
By The Way: Openers The 22-20's showed a little promise. The UK band had some real tight harmonies and sounded like a less edgy, more bluesy Arctic Monkeys.
What is Rational?
No, Not Now
Running Out of Time
Get In, or Get Out
Nobody's Accusing You (Of Having a Good Time)
Talk to Me, Dance With Me
Goddess on the Prairie
Middle of Nowhere