Hot Hot Heat - Make Up The Breakdown
Vancouver new-wave retro punk pop artistes Hot Hot Heat overcame their stupid band name and the loss of their first principal lead singer to churn out an album that sounds like a perfect musical fusion of Robert Smith backed by a more Strokes-like Cure, with an extremely heavy dose of XTC thrown in.
Make Up The Breakdown has an eighties soundtrack summery feel to its ten tracks (bizarre how you could claim the same about many recent albums) but whilst many rival bands seem desperate for fashion mag covers and fabricated teen angst encapsulation, Hot Hot Heat seem likely to only explode into fluid dance moves at the local prom. There's a sweet naive charm to their pounding musical virtuosity, exemplified by singer Steve Bays' sweaty adrenaline-tinged vocals, and they already have a bona fide UK hit in Bandages, the infectious powerpopper for the times when you quite literally find yourself "cut up" over a former love.
Whilst the album only hovers around the thirty-minute mark, there are enough musical hooks and classic retropop moments to make up for matters. Considering the band have one less member than The Strokes, they seem to sound far more musically talented and varied in comparison. It's fortunate that Bays himself seems a very capable keyboard player, which enables guitarist Dante Decaro to bash those Marr chords in any way he sees fit.
There are numerous standout tracks on the album. This Town has a feel-good chorus bathed in nice guitar ambience, whilst Talk To Me, Dance With Me manages to have a hip groove to its undercurrent and maintain hard-edged attitude whilst flirting lyrically with monogamy. Dustin Hawthorne’s bass slides up along melodically on Oh, Goddamnit, which conveys a late-seventies’ NY vibe. It’s a pity that the tremendously catchy More For Show off the Knock Knock Knock EP didn’t make it onto the final album cut (or indeed any track from that session) but this decision only serves to make the preceding EP more precious.
Listen to your Police records again or Drums And Wires by XTC and you’ll realise that they aren’t as dated as they used to be. You can always tell; it’s when the modern bands start pillaging the old riffs that you know older music is back in vogue. When The Strokes hit the scene, it made everyone dust off every punky New York record, from The Velvets to Blondie. Hot Hot Heat fire up the flux capacitor to the nostalgic and cinematic side of the eighties, but with such verve and gusto that fans are quickly one over. They won’t match the pin-up status of Julian Casablancas, but they damn near deserve to.