Hot Hot Heat - Happiness Ltd. (Cover Artwork)

Hot Hot Heat

Happiness Ltd. (2007)


Right off the bat, I would like to say that I hated Hot Hot Heat. When I heard tracks off 2005's Elevator and 2002's Make Up the Breakdown, I decided that they were a crappy little pop band who played off of teenage girl fetishes for curly hair and overuse of keyboards. When I saw that they had released a new album, I was quick to decide that it would suck, but something kept telling me to give it a shot. A couple hours later I was hooked and Happiness Ltd. wasn't about to let go.

On Happiness Ltd. the thing that stands out the most is that Hot Hot Heat are drawing on a much larger bed of influences. Where the previous LPs could be easily be traced back to their influences (the Strokes, the Cure, XTC), Happiness Ltd. seems like the product of a much broader range of music. Whether it's the Ben Folds-esque romp of piano in "5 Times Out of 100" or the vocal style in the verse of "Good Day to Die" (which hints at Out of Time-era R.E.M.), there are more styles and extremes of the musical spectrum.

But that's not to say that Hot Hot Heat don't sound like themselves anymore. Each song has the clear distinctions of Hot Hot Heat, but in a different way from their past work. The flirty keyboards are a bit more subtle and roundabout, rather than direct simple harmonies. Steve Bays' vocals, while still reaching low ("My Best Friend") and high ("Let Me In"), seem to come off a bit more convincing and full this time around. His voice is used more as another instrument and accentuates the feeling of the songs better. This is best seen in "My Best Friend" where HHH hint at a little aggression that is brought through perfectly by Bays' vocal performance.

Happiness Ltd. is an album of musical highs and lows. Starting on a low with the title track and some extremely depressing lyrics ("Happiness is limited but misery has no end") it moves on to "Let Me In"; with a huge chorus and bright wordplay this song serves as the polar opposite. This cycle repeats throughout the album, culminating with the fantastic closing duo of "Good Day to Die" and "So So Cold," which sends it out with a great upbeat chorus (and is one of the best songs on the album, if not the best).

All in all, a huge step up in my opinion. The album stretches over territory that Hot Hot Heat have not dwelled in before and provides an intriguing and attractive listen time and time again. Regardless of your opinion on their other work, there is no denying that they have outdone themselves creatively and musically on Happiness Ltd..