It seems that honesty is the best policy after all.
If the glorious underground sounds of The Rapture and Radio 4 make you frug for joy then Hot Hot Heat are here to share those angular ways with the overground. They take the groove blueprint and reshape it with defiantly proper, shimmering songs on their first UK album.
Formed in 1999, they released three EPs and a compilation before original singer Matthew Marnik departed and keyboard player Steve Bays casually added singing to his duties. With a voice so iridescent with idiosyncrasies it defies any kind of reason as to why he would be been the second choice for vocalist – it’s uncommon power driving the band to ever greater heights. Simultaneously they recruited their first guitarist, Dante DeCaro, transforming themselves from intermittently muddled synthpigs to sharp energy-packed guitar pop demons.
They hail from Canada’s tourism capital Victoria, British Columbia – which ranks roughly alongside Bognor Regis as a hot hot hotbed of rock talent. No letters about Nelly Furtado, please. Perhaps it’s this cosmopolitan but fiercely individual outlook which informs HHH number one talent: to coalesce a stunning range of influences into an unique arse-shaking whole.
Latest single ‘Bandages’ is the finest example. First you’re thinking it’s Joe Jackson with emo implants. Then, with Bays’ razor-sharp, art-punk croon, you’re thinking it’s Robert Smith distilled through a decade of fidgety ’60s beat groups. Whatever you think, you’re feeling so much better.
So bear witness to a smash and grab of a youthful Elvis Costello (the wonderful ‘Oh, Goddamnit’) a whopping great dollop of pure ’80s other-pop via XTC and The Cure (‘In Cairo’) and even murmurs of the first wave of post-hardcore greats such as Braid and Fugazi at their most playful. But, despite all this seemingly new wave-laden, impeccably cool, retrograde influence, ‘Make Up The Break Down’ is indisputably now.
However every nu-pop chancer knows that viewing the past through rosy revisionist spectacles will earn you a few spins down the disco. What distances this modern day classic from skinny-tie bandwagon hoppers is the sheer weight of clever ideas and the ripeness of their stock in trade. Every step of the album is a joyously bold, emotionally rounded one all of which betrays a cleverly veiled melancholia. From ‘Get In Or Get Out”s crypto-jazz keys to the cowbell-driven studied cool of ‘Talk To Me, Dance With Me’, it’s a record that shakes all preconceptions from the tree, and should be talked about in hushed tones by self-congratulatory, music aficionados 20 years from now.
During the bittersweet staccato-pop of ‘No, Not Now’, Bays imparts: “Some of us wouldn’t be lying if we said we were trying too hard, but it all works out in the end”. It seems that honesty is the best policy after all.