Hot Hot Heat – Scenes One Through Thirteen

Hot Hot Heat
Scenes One Through Thirteen

There was some furor a few years ago about Japanese cartoons whose flashing animation induced seizures in some people. Hot Hot Heat, through their music, have a similar effect, I think. Sounding something akin to The Faint on speed, this is one thoroughly messed-up band. Quirky, spastic, hyper keyboard-driven rock can be quite fun, and they have several good songs, but taken as a whole, this whole album is very hard to take.
This album combines all of the band’s previous vinyl and compilation tracks, making a nice teaser for their new EP on the venerable SubPop Records. And taken individually, as these tracks were originally presented for the most part, this is pretty fun. Everything’s fast and full of almost danceable keyboards. But when you post one song after another, they start sounding very familiar, and by the 10th track, if you don’t have a headache, I’d be surprised.
The centerpiece of this four-piece Canadian band is the keyboards. Incorporating 80’s mod/new-wave with punk-rock and … well, influences unknown, this band fills each song first with keyboard, then with pounding percussion, then with herky-jerky vocals that are, at times, quite painful. The songs come full-force, with little variation. Each is a frenzied blast of keyboards and new-wave punk-rock, just slightly danceable if you like to flop around like a madman.
There are some good songs here, if you take them individually. The opener, “Keep My Name Out of Your Mouth” is a furious blast of drums and keyboards, with vocals as deep as “We met doing a dance. Cha cha cha. Cha cha.” “Haircut Economics” slows down a bit and gets fairly bouncy, but it also gets fast and energetic. The keyboards are especially good on “The Case That They Gave Me,” almost with a sped-up horror movie feel, and the percussion makes this the most danceable. “I Blew a Fuse in My Personality” reminds me of an intense Milemarker song, while “Fashion Fight Pause” has some serious new-wave groove. And the last song, “You’re Ruining it For Everyone” might be the catchiest here, as I find myself singing its simplistic (and only) lyrics, “You’re ruining it for everyone, everybody just wants to have some fun,” over and over. By contrast to some of these stand-outs, many other tracks sound quite similar and almost pummel you over the head with those spastic, grating vocals and relentless percussion to the point of causing bleeding.
I don’t mind the herky-jerky, frenzied approach Hot Hot Heat takes. I imagine they’re quite fun in concert. Their influences are unique, and their presentation is unique. But after a few songs of this spastic, hyper new-wave-rock, I simply can’t take anymore. Anything more than an EP from these guys without some more variation would be just too much to take. But I guess if you can’t stand the heat, you get out of the kitchen.