First posted on Mark Is Cranky:
Every once in a whatever-or-so, I hear some music that sets off so many bells in my head that confusion doesn't do justice to the resulting sense of "what the?!..."
With Hot Hot Heat's Elevator, the aural swirling involved early new wave at one extreme to more recent pop groups like No Doubt.
Let's look at the early new wave first. There's the jangly guitars a-la XTC. There's also those snappy rhythm chords, reminding me of early Joe Jackson (all the way up and including Beat Crazy). Halfway though Elevator and I'm lapsing into a serious oh-wasn't-it-great-to-be-twenty-one thought coma.
But, the vocals. Who do they remind me of? Several listens later it hits me that Steve Bays sounds like the bastard pop child of Gwen Stefani and Kevin Rowland (Dexy's Midnight Runners). This could not have been premeditated. All those 'fans' crabbing about 'selling out' need to relax & have some fun.
The big highlights:
- the guitar line that shadows the lead vocal of opener "Running Out Of Time" (the same guitar that, later in the song, pushes along the bridge with some angular, Gang of Four-ish licks)
- the organ fills that bring back all those early 80's bands that I loved
- the jaunty & raw guitar riff that drives "Ladies and Gentlemen"
- the great guitar riff supporting "Pickin' It Up"
- the call & response organ on that same song
Again, about that 'selling out' thing. Many reviewers toss around the word 'derivative' with the same amount of abandon. Sorry, that's being lazy (not that there aren't some true examples, Kingdom Come springs to mind). This particular record may indeed draw in some older pop elements, but the fresh and exuberant spin put on them gives it plenty of "new band smell".
This record brought a huge smile to my face...and on some days, that is more than good enough.