Gallery/Review: Hot Hot Heat – “Awww, Bless”

There’s a phrase that the English use that’s not always meant to be patronizing. It’s sort of intended as a sweet pat on the head that acknowledges effort, is said with genuine affection but ultimately stems from the sentiment, that “wow, that really could’ve been better, but they mean well.”  It is:

Awww, bless.

So, Hot Hot Heat made it sort of back “home” (they’re actually from Victoria on Vancouver Island but close enough) to Vancouver on  September 24 headlining a mega-alt-rock Canuck bill including Rich Aucoin, Fake Shark – Real Zombie and (crowd favourite) Hey Rosetta! (from bestest Canadian province, Newfoundland).  By the time Hx3 (see what I did there?) made it to the stage, the smallish, scrubbed white crowd of both kids and folks who’d gotten babysitters were well liquored and ready to party.

Hot Hot Heat do deliver. Their singer Steve Bays (probably sick of hearing comments about his impressive mop, but here we go) bounded on stage, curls abounding, pounded his keyboard, yelled with tongue into the mic and generally….expended during the apt-opener of “YVR” (the airport code for “Vancouver” and from latest platter Future Breeds) which, like most of the album, is heavy on bass drums, toms, guitar squalls and rocky Beatlesy influences. “Man, am I fucking glad to be back in Vancouver,” Bays said, endearingly…and you know he means it. Hot Hot Heat are a hard-working bunch. Songs are catchy. Live show is energetic. Ridiculous rock posing from bassist Louis Hearn and guitarist Luke Paquin? Check!

So why does it always feel like Hot Hot Heat ever so slightly miss the mark?

Disclosure: This is not the first time we’ve seen Hot Hot Heat. It’s probably 4th or 5th time. In fact, we ran into them, with the dudes from The Bravery, at the Green Day gig here last year. We are genuinely, awesomely thrilled for the attention that the band attracted, particularly in the UK, when its first album Make Up the Breakdown came out (gasp!) 8 years ago. It was a fun little platter. “Bandages” (tonight’s encore)? Yep, singable as all hell. “Lost and Naked in the City”? Yep, still singing it this morning. The other four tracks from the first album that they trotted out? (“No, Not Now”, “Get In Or Get Out”, “Talk To Me, Dance With Me” and “This Town”) All sound pretty good….and pretty much the same.

Same goes for the six tracks they played from Future Breeds. (Holy crap, are we really on album five?) And same goes for the whatevers from Elevator and Happiness Ltd like “Middle of Nowhere”, “Running out of Time” and “Give Up?” (though “Goodnight, Goodnight” always sounds good).

I like them. They’ve got energy. They’ve got drive. They’ve got hooky songs. And they mean well. They’re just…a bit tepid sometimes. But let’s face it. This is not the worst thing that can be levelled at a band. Is it?

Hot Hot Heat? Awww, bless ’em.

Get tickets for the Hot Hot Heat and Hey Rosetta! (+) tour here.

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