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Hot Hot Heat

October 19, 2007

Culture Room

Better Than: A B12 shot of mid-‘80s nostalgia.

The Review: I hate beginning with a negative (there’s too much bad in the world already), but I will say this: if I never had to stand through another song by Bedouin Soundclash, my negatives would decrease considerably.

Then again, maybe I should thank the maddeningly tiresome trio, ‘cause last night at Culture Room their sparkless opening set only made the flame of headliners Hot Hot Heat burn that much brighter.

Talk about scorch. I tell ya, those Victoria BC boys bang through a set like one of the policies Lord Kitchener used during the Second Boer War. But unlike the lowly Lord, Hot Hot Heat scorch the earth in order to make something bountiful.

I mean, rise and conquer, dig? Frenetic, kinetic, and without one ounce of sympathy for the Eighties Waved devils who plowed these grounds before them. Really. These are the kinda scrappers you want on your side when you rumble in pop’s playground.

Since my notebook is in tatters from furiously attempting to keep up with the carnage, I can’t give you an accurate set list. But if the blastful band skipped a track on this year’s rousing Happiness Ltd, I didn’t notice. “Give Up,” “Harmonicas and Tambourines,” “5 Times Out of 100” (remade from Knock Knock Knock), “My Best Fiend” (after Herzog!?), and, of course, that utterly infectious single now making its way across modern rock airwaves, “Let Me In,” all followed one another in some particular flash of order. I do know this: Each came quick, each came manic, and each cut a blistering blur.

And each was propelled by the mad dash of lead singer Steve Bays, who apparently never met a move he didn’t wanna make. I mean, the cat was all over the place, preening, steaming and ricocheting from one side of the stage to the other.

Contrary to some critics’ unimaginations, Bays comes off less like Napoleon Dynamite and more akin to Mika, had he grown up cramming old YouTube footage of Jagger rather than Mercury. Not that Steve sounds like Mick, mind you, or that he’s without a healthy tinge of Freddie, but that his strut is infinitely more rooster than peacock.

Of course no pageantry would be complete without a band to back it up, and Paul Hawley (drums), Dustin Hawthorne (bass) and Luke Paquin (guitar) back up Bays with bluster. Luke’s relatively new to the unit (Dante DeCaro left after the release of ‘05’s Elevator), but he wrapped his fingers around catalog favorites like "Bandages,” "Talk to Me, Dance With Me,” and “No Not Now” (off of ‘02’s Make Up the Breakdown) as if he’d written ‘em himself. When the boys broke open “Dirty Mouth” and then made everyone long for the “Middle of Nowhere,” it felt like they’d all been together from the get, and from the get all they’d intended was to get you dancing.

I’d say they’ve succeeded. -- John Hood

Personal Bias: I survived the Eighties once already, but I still don’t mind the occasional reminder.

Random Detail: Steve Bays’ white mic could’ve been stolen from Wayne Newton.

By the Way: You can stream a bit of Happiness Ltd on their site, and hear a whole heaping of the Hot Hot Heat catalog on their Myspace page.

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