Though it floats somewhere amid the current trends of post-punk homage-paying (Interpol, Radio 4), spastic new-wave updating (The Faint), and plain old three-chord garage-rocking, Hot Hot Heat sets itself apart by mashing influences together instead of carefully reconstructing them. The Knock Knock Knock EP, released earlier this year, was nearly flawless, steamrollering through five songs in 15 minutes of wiry (and even Wire-y) energy. The Canadian band's full-length debut, Make Up The Breakdown, doesn't stick around much longer—it barely breaks the half-hour mark—but it trades some of the EP's intensity for more measured and tuneful songs. Glimpses of new wave emerge: The most energetic bits of classic Elvis Costello and XTC battle to be heard over Hot Hot Heat's most prevalent band-of-reference, The Cure. That comparison is apt only as applied to singer Steve Bays' voice, which shares Robert Smith's peculiar ability to sound simultaneously whiny and confident. (Make Up The Breakdown's final song, "In Cairo," even seems like a sly reference to The Cure's "Fire In Cairo.") But while Hot Hot Heat's sound may be derivative, its songs aren't. "Oh, Goddamnit" is a perfect encapsulation of the band: bouncy, tuneful, and unashamedly clever. Make Up The Breakdown plants Hot Hot Heat in the current clutch of bands like The Dismemberment Plan and the aforementioned Radio 4, which don't consider disaffected head-bobbing to be dancing, and who instead promote the idea that hip-swiveling, melody, and smarts can all travel via the same song.
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