Hot Hot Heat – Make Up the Breakdown

Hot Hot Heat
Make Up the Breakdown

Please forgive this upcoming odd little rambling, but I think it might help. Okay, picture Ben Folds. Got it? Hum a couple of older, peppier Ben Folds Five songs to yourself for a minute. If you aren’t familiar with the older material, just hum whatever you do know. Now, imagine Ben Folds with his big piano replaced by assorted keyboards, supported by a fuller and funkier band than he has been with in the past – one that includes guitar, and one in which he is no longer the central focus, but just another member of the band. Starting to get the picture? Maybe this makes no sense, but it popped into my brain one day while blasting Hot Hot Heat’s latest, Make Up the Breakdown, through my headphones to block out the chatter on the subway. Thanks for sharing? You’re most welcome.
Started in Vancouver Island, Hot Hot Heat was created when a few fledgling musicians who had together played in about 30 other bands started jamming and noticed an odd chemistry. After a few releases that watched the band develop its sound from aggressive synth-punk to something with more focus on melody, the band recorded Make Up the Breakdown in just six days, using all the live material they had at the time. There is an enthusiasm in every song here that will remind you of your obnoxious little cousin that likes to run around and pester everyone at family gatherings. The difference is that your little cousin probably can’t write songs this undeniably catchy. Make Up the Breakdown is a rare combination of clever and honest lyrics, poppy yet intricate song structures, and just enough swagger to give it a bit of attitude.
The keyboards are piercing, but in a good way. Just listen to them crank out the melody of songs like “Bandages” and you’ll understand. The basslines are where the heavy grooves come from, and the drum and additional percussion work is capable of joining one of those funky grooves, rocking out a bit, or jingling and jangling like the sun just came out after a week of rain. The guitar is used in interesting fashion, not always the lead instrument but frequently popping in to contribute an infectious riff or a quick little solo blast. Meanwhile, the vocals come in the form of a funny little yelp that practically begs you to sing along. Together, all of these elements somehow manage to blend a hyper spasticness with tight and practiced structures. “Talk to Me, Dance with Me” makes you want to grab your partner and shake your ass, while “Get in or Get Out” rocks and funks like no other. “Oh, Goddamnit” is an off-kilter and perfect pop gem for those confused about the rules of love, while “In Cairo” closes out the album as a cinematic epic of sorts. There really is not a single throwaway track here, and they are all worthy of being mentioned.
Critics are raving, and radio even appears to be catching on, so it seems as though Hot Hot Heat is generating a lot of, well, heat. (Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.) Unlike so many bands, however, this one seems to be the real deal, and there isn’t any undeserved buzz here.