April 21, 2005

Hot Hot Heat: Elevator

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In case you’ve been living in a cave a mile under the ocean for the past four or five years, there’s been a movement taking shape in modern rock. It’s this idea that by making music simpler (“returning rock to its roots”), it’s being made more interesting. You might call the idea ridiculous or perhaps ludicrous. I would too, but there are a number of rock’s most respected musicians and critics who swear by bands like the Strokes or the Hives. Bullshit.

Do you believe in fate? How about hubris or the sacred gods of rock? I do, all of them, and I want to know who is responsible for this brain-splitting theory. I demand satisfaction and I’m pretty sure the retardation of rock has been about 20 years in the making.

Hair-metal. It was those hair-sprayed and perverted descendants of Liberace who initiated the downward spiral in the mid ’80s. Yes, the blame can be placed on the heads of Axl Rose and his fellow metal meatheads who angered rock’s sacred pantheon with their vanity and ignorance. We have been suffering for their conceit ever since. Spandex and aerosol have been replaced by designer jeans and hair gel. You decide which is worse; I’ll just put this gun in my mouth and slowly squeeze the trig…

Hot Hot Heat is Canada’s version of the Strokes (sure to be a winning combination!). Like all of our northern neighbors, the band is warm and gentle, but I can tell they have a darker side because they wear black jackets and blacker sunglasses. How do you spell badass? G-U-C-C-I.

To keep from being entirely cynical, I’ll applaud Hot Hot Heat for the inventive and humorous lyrics on their new album Elevator. Whether laughing at an embarrassingly drunk girlfriend on “Goodnight Goodnight” or lamenting the inability of certain body parts to function on the title track, singer Steve Bays uses a dynamic combination of rhyme scheme and alliteration that is sadly not buttressed by a synchronized band.

The tracks come in machine-gun fashion, with most under three minutes. The highlight is the final song “Elevator;” its gentle piano strokes and fogging guitar riffs prays for a certain body part to revive itself. Most of the songs have a catchy hook, but each falls flat in the verse and bridge.

The inability of modern bands to write a complete song is evident throughout contemporary rock music. The Strokes play fast but certainly cannot be deemed coordinated. Hot Hot Heat has an organ and a couple of guitars but plays far too tentatively. These modern garage bands are a dime a dozen, thrown together by the major labels and like their hair-metal ancestors, constantly try to prove that image is more important than substance.

Hot Hot Heat and other bands in their genre are lacking because they’ve lost touch with rock’s roots in America’s backwoods blues. Rock is about loss, pain and redemption; these groups just don’t have any stories to tell. Elevator is another band bragging about how hard they party. Excuse me while I educate myself with this jigger of whiskey…

Archived article by Stan Feldman
Sun Staff Writer