Hot Hot Heat - Make Up The Breakdown (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Hot Hot Heat

Make Up The Breakdown (2002)

Sub Pop

Hot Hot Heat, as a phenomenon not as a band, should have realistically happened years ago. All the elements have been around since the early 80s, yet they seldom shine as brilliantly as they do here. "Make Up The Breakdown" is an album we would have heard many times before if only new wave did not degenerate into the self-mockery we make fun of the 80s for. There was a promise in early new wave: punk had just destroyed bloated album rock and from its ashes was supposedly endless freedom to make interesting music again. This was heard from Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Joe Jackson, The Cure, XTC and others from the era. It's the banner of these groups that Hot Hot Heat carries.

While it's inevitable that the rock revival movement has advanced a few years from its late 70s Television fixation, it would be an injustice to lump this album with simple revivalists. There's less stylistic posturing here and more of a focus on danceable rhythms and ridiculously catchy arrangements. Vocalist Steve Bays sounds like a joyful Robert Smith (not necessarily a contradiction, think "Lovecats" or "Wrong Number"). This combines with a Costello-like paranoia both vocally and lyrically. The jangely punk songs that make up this record are rife with keyboards and sped up Fugazi riffs, surprisingly effective combinations that the band pulls off effortlessly.

There's no denying the infectious force of "No, Not Now" or "Oh, Goddamnit." The single "Bandages" bounces with a ska-rhythm and swirling organ work. It also delivers the most complete moment on the album as the band kicks into a reggae bridge over which Bays nervously chants "Don't worry now `cuz its under control." The band lets their inner-Cure shine on the down-tempo piano driven "In Cairo." Hot Hot Heat gets away with song writing that simply wouldn't be believable from other groups. Repeated over cowbell percussion, the line "You are my only girl, but you're not my owner girl" shouldn't be as satisfyingly cool as it really is in "Talk To Me, Dance With Me."

Hot Hot Heat have that rare quality that can make cynical indie kids dance and get hardened punk rockers to move their feet in unfamiliar ways. The band just signed a fat Warner Bros deal and is getting a much-deserved push. World domination ensures, but don't wait till then to check this out.