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CD Reviews: Review of Elevator by Hot Hot Heat
Paulsen Home / CD Reviews Home / Entertainment Channel / Entertainment Web Guide

Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Hot Hot Heat: Elevator (Sire/Wea 2005)

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In following up their 2002 breakthrough Make Up The Breakdown, Canada’s Hot Hot Heat had a difficult task – to meet the inevitable expectations that come after making a great album. Breakdown was such a leap forward from their borderline unlistenable debut Scenes One Through Thirteen, it’s hard not to expect the same leap here. Elevator does pick up where Breakdown left off and while it meets my somewhat tempered expectations, it’s not able to exceed them.

For fans of Breakdown, that infectious sound is still there. Hot Hot Heat has the proven ability to write catchy, new wave-infused rock songs and, on Elevator, this talent is still obvious. In an inspired act, the band freely distributed their first single “Goodnight, Goodnight” from their website. It’s one of the several songs on Elevator about a breakup and while it’s not the band’s best work, lyrics like “you’re embarrassing me / you’re embarrassing you” show that the wit is still there. There are several tracks that will have you singing along immediately – “Dirty Mouth,” “You Owe Me An IOU” and “Island Of The Honest Man” are instant HHH classics.

It’s clear that keyboardist Steve Bays’ vocals now have the confidence of a hit record behind them, but it’s not clear if that’s actually a good thing. He’s over the top at times, but keeps it reined in for most of the album. As with Breakdown, the production successfully walks the fine line between sounding too polished and sounding too raw. They found a good formula with Breakdown and, wisely, did their best to replicate it.

The band steps out of character and takes a breather from their usual breakneck pace on “Ladies and Gentlemen” and the Talking Heads-ish “Middle of Nowhere,” though the latter works better than the former. Of all the tracks, “Shame On You” sounds the most retro and it quickens the pulse with its funky groove and catchy vocals. Finally, the title track uses a slower tempo and a Middle Eastern melody to bring the album to an almost somber close. With vulnerable lyrics like “don’t take me up / I’ll just fall down once again” one wonders if Bays himself wants his fans to keep their expectations at a reasonable level. I did just that and while I’m not disappointed, I’m not blown away, either.

Key tracks: “Goodnight, Goodnight”, “Dirty Mouth”, “You Owe Me An IOU”, “Island Of The Honest Man”, “Shame On You”, “Middle Of Nowhere”

~John Paulsen 


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