Release Date: Jun 24, 2016
Record label: Kaw-Liga Records / Universal Music
When Hot Hot Heat burst onto the scene in 2002, they were regarded as something of a novelty band, thanks mainly to the lead single from debut album Make Up The Breakdown, the frenetic nonsensicalisms of Bandages. Peeled back, however, they revealed an intelligence that belied the whimsical nature of that song, albeit one that never really penetrated the general public as much as it deserved. Now, some 14 years and four albums later, the Canadians are calling it quits with this self-titled record.
When a band names an album after itself, it usually implies a definitive statement; in Hot Hot Heat's case, it's also a final one. They use this opportunity to showcase what they excelled at for over 15 years: piling as many melodies and hooks into their songs as possible. Their overwhelming tunefulness earned them immediate attention for their debut, Make Up the Breakdown, and "Sad Sad Situation," "Modern Mind," and "Mayor of the City" could have easily appeared on that album.
Hot Hot Heat began their career defining what they weren't — namely, a guitar-based band. Over the ensuing years, the limits the Vancouver-via-Victoria group placed on their music eroded. Once widely associated with mid-aughts dance-punk, on their new, supposedly final album, Hot Hot Heat finally out themselves as a rock band, albeit a pop-leaning one.Over the years, Hot Hot Heat lost much of the urgency and herky-jerk rhythms of their debut, Make Up the Breakdown, much to the chagrin of early fans.
The career arc of the Canadian four-piece Hot Hot Heat is at times neatly constructed and at others quite peculiar. In regards to the former, the band was formed in 1999, released five albums between 2002 and 2016 and is now closing up shop with a new self-titled LP. It doesn't get much tidier than that without a bow on top. But in addressing the latter point, Hot Hot Heat has been anything but conventional.
After 17 years, five albums, numerous line up changes, Hot Hot Heat are calling it quits with their final, self-titled LP–not that they expect you to care. The Canadian group are totally fine with their spiral into obscurity, because they’ve have nothing left to say, judging from frontman and principal songwriter Steve Bays’ comments to the press in the wake of the split. “I really have no idea what it means to put out a record out in 2016,” he admitted to The Independent, surprised that anyone even bothers about Hot Hot Heat anymore, or cares about their dissolution: “It feels like we’re getting a warm reception so far, and not any kind of… ‘What are you doing here?’”Bays’ statement is ostensibly intended as a humble shout-out to the diehards, and yet the self-deprecating jokes belie gravely low expectations and a dearth of self-confidence.
For the past couple of weeks, whenever a friend would ask what I was listening to and I replied the new Hot Hot Heat album, an eerily similar exchange would follow. “Hot Hot Heat has a new album? I didn’t realize that they were still around,” they would say. “This is their last one,” I’d reply. “Oh.” Every time.
In the mid-’00s, while most of its fellow post-punk revival acts were glooming out to Joy Division riffs and Gang Of Four beats, Hot Hot Heat was ready to party. That was the Canadian foursome’s chief defining characteristic. On its excellent first two albums, 2002’s wonderfully nervy Make Up The Breakdown and 2005’s new-wave power-pop hook parade Elevator, the group flung neon XTC and Fixx melodies like there was no tomorrow.
Everyone enjoyed the self-deprecating humour of #indieamnesty, in which artists, writers and fans alike confessed to taking the mid-noughties indie scene a little too seriously. For all the pretenders, scenesters and NME-baiters who defined the movement - which began in 2001 with Is This It? and imploded around the time Oasis split in 2009 - some acts associated with the garage rock revival perhaps deserved to be better remembered. Hot Hot Heat's career blossomed after signing to Sub Pop and in 2003 their single “Bandages” became a bona fide dancefloor filler and mainstream radio hit.