Hot Hot Heat

Hot Hot Heat

Knock Knock Knock EP

Sub Pop

The term “EP” paradoxically stands for “Extended Play.” I say paradoxically because by my definition, an EP is generally between 4-7 songs and/or 10-25 minutes — why anyone would call the shortened format “extended” is beyond me. It’s an artform with its own strengths and weaknesses, but I find greater practical pleasure in discovering a Perfect EP than I do in a solid album or a spectacular single.

Case in point: Hot Hot Heat’s Knock Knock Knock EP. Every track on here (there are five) has its unique sound. Yet every one properly represents the band’s talents — they are obviously coming from the same group of artists. Unlike a Perfect Single, you get to see more than one facet of the band’s full potential. Unlike a Perfect Album, there are not so many tracks that it becomes easy to rank some as superior to others. And since you’ll quickly get sick of listening to a single, and an album’s greater length provides for some time for the songs to refresh themselves, the Perfect EP hast to distinguish itself by being strong enough to withstand repeated listening, over and over again.

Which is exactly what I’ve been doing with this. Hot Hot Heat takes a decidedly rock approach to their music, using guitar, bass and drums — and a fantastically adept piano/organ — to fully flesh out their songs. Bristling with hooks and oddly contorted arrangements, the band makes use of implacable bass grooves to complement the inventive drumming, and snarling guitars reminiscent of The Police and The Clash to complement tormented vocals worthy of The Cure’s Robert Smith. But before you get the idea that this is a retro act, the band has clearly modern influences… Brainiac’s high-energy jolt comes to mind.

Mind you, these comparisons come in flashes, a lick here, a measure there, as Hot Hot Heat are clearly blazing their own musical trail. Songs like “Le Le Low” and “5 Times Out of 100” feel like being punched in the head by a weeping boxer, powerful, raging and sad. “Have a Good Sleep” has a wandering melody that cleverly leads in to a reggae-like chorus. “Touch You Touch Me” is a soaring cathedral of sound, with edgy guitars and a pounding piano riff, that could easily have come from the Chameleons UK in their heyday. The closing “More For Show” has the band at its Cure-iest, with upbeat verses leading to a bittersweet chorus, sparkling guitars, and wistful vocals.

To properly put this in context, I would have to loop back and start describing “Le Le Low” again, and run down the five tracks a good twenty or hundred times. But I’ll let that be an exercise for you, the listener at home.

Sub Pop: &bulleg; Hot Hot Heat:

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