by Mike Mineo
One may be asked about Hot Hot Heat and immediately reply to them as a band whose main and only objective is to create a song as catchy and witty as possible, but hell, what’s wrong with that? Hot Hot Heat’s debut in 2002, “Make Up The Breakdown" was critically acclaimed as it is an incredibly contagious album, but it seemed the flaw with that was that while a few songs were very fun and very radio-friendly, about half of the album seemed to be a bunch of filler songs. Their 2003 release, “Scenes One Through Thirteen" seemed to have the same problem, but in a worse effect.
So, can Hot Hot Heat finally show their strength and release an album where all or almost every song is powerful, hooky, and brilliant? Ladies and gentleman, I’m proud to announce they have done so with their newest album, “Elevator." Could all 14 (well, technically 13) albums on this album have a feeling of content? Pretty damn close. There’s probably a good chance you heard the songs ‘You Owe Me An IOU’ or ‘Goodnight Goodnight’ and with the strength of those two singles, Hot Hot Heat set high expectations for this album. No problem guys, high expectations aren’t always bad, especially when they are filled.
The album kicks off in typical fashion, with the first song being the Strokes-esque ‘Running Out Of Time.’ The song appears to be in mediocre fashion, as the chorus is repetitive after time and the melody really does not change at all. Yeah, sure, this gives off an impression that it’s the same old Hot Hot Heat with the same old attempts at catchy hooks, which seem they really succeed to do about half the time. It’s great to know that this is one of the average songs on the album placed strangely as the first track.
The next two songs, ‘Goodnight Goodnight’ and ‘You Owe Me An IOU’ are the two most easiest-listening songs on the album, and they are both most capable of becoming a big radio hit. ‘Goodnight Goodnight’ is good, and will receive some noteworthy attention but it brings nothing completely new to the table, as its format is shockingly similar to the first song on the album. The shiner comes in through ‘You Owe Me An IOU’ which clearly is one of the most catchiest songs I have heard all year. Even the enigmatic title seems to give away that this song will be one that you’ll have stuck in your head all day. The vocals are perfectly done in this song, as the vocals seem to change every time the chorus approaches. Remarkable song.
‘No Jokes - Fact’ is a random forty second blurb of what seems to be a mix of hotel piano music, with modern day synths in the background. It fits well after the rocking, head-bopping, ‘I Owe You An IOU.’ The songs ‘Jingle Jangle’, ‘Pickin’ It Up’, and ‘Island Of The Honest Man’ suffer from what I like to call the mid-album blues. While the songs aren’t completely bad, after two undeniable songs of great quality, there seems to be nothing jolting or exciting to offer here. Albeit this though, the three songs remain fun although they all seem in similar fashion.
And here is where ‘Elevator’ separates itself from the previous Hot Hot Heat albums. The last four tracks on this album are good enough to be placed anywhere. ‘Dirty Mouth’ is seemingly simple, but provides clever lyrics with perfect vocals. As I’ve mentioned throughout this review, the vocals have been vastly improved from their previous releases. ‘Soldier In A Box’ clearly begins the most unique starter of any song on the album, sounding as punk as Hot Hot Heat have ever sounded. Chanting along exactly with the guitar riff is what is going on here, and when the supposed chorus arrives, you would think its just another mediocre song, but oh no, the real chorus comes with the enigmatic riffs and joyous glee of “He’s serenading to himself because nobody’s there, he’s celebrating to himself because nobody cares, he’s serenading himself" and while it seems seemingly simple, it fits appropriately. Especially after piano effects that with the right tone could possibly sound straight from Echo & The Bunnymen’s ‘Yo Yo Man.’ This song is clearly a winner, and is one of the best on the album.
‘Shame On You’ has a curious Mars Volta feel to it, and the instrumentals in the background are very catchy... wow, how many times have I said ‘catchy’ in this review? Too many, but that’s what this album can do to you it seems. Clever lines such as “Running with scissors wasn’t smart, I tripped and cut open your heart," are excellent and sung at the right times. The chorus again, is done just as well as ‘Soldier In A Box’ which makes you wonder to yourself why Hot Hot Heat were saving the best songs on the album for the end.
How appropriately it is though, the last track on the album is the best song on the album. Well, it’s also the best song I have heard yet this year. Sharing the same name as the album, ‘Elevator’ is the last song on the album, and it is the best song Hot Hot Heat has ever released. This song will receive an incredibly amount of play on the radio if marketed correctly. This has to be Hot Hot Heat’s next single, any decision otherwise would be foolish. Expect this to rank among any popular rock ballad that is popular in mainstream radio, except this song is actually be good!
“Elevator" turns out to be Hot Hot Heat’s best album of their career, while carrying their best song they ever released. Every single thing has seemed to improved on this band’s resume, vocals, lyrics, guitar work... everything. This album is not to be missed, and do not be surprised at all if this album slips into the top ten best albums of the year, maybe even the top five. Extremely solid.