A little backwater club in San Francisco has a night called Popscene. It’s ostensibly an eighties and britpop night, but it became overrun by hipsters (okay, to be honest, San Francisco breeds hipsters like rabbits, only I find rabbits cute) and the set list settled into the Strokes, the White Stripes and the Faint, interspersed with … some other stuff.
That, in a nutshell, is Vancouver’s Hot Hot Heat.
Stealing liberally from the Cure (but without the charm), the Stooges (but without the vitality), and piano-driven post-punk groups, such as the Get Hustle and Tarot Bolero (but without the bizarre abandon), Hot Hot Heat knocks out an album full of dry danceable indie rock. Lead singer/keyboardist Steve Bays sobs like a sculpted-hair hero backed by Dante DeCaro’s rhythmic, choppy guitarwork – think Iggy’s “Lust for Life” (or the Strokes’ incessant mining thereof). Drummer Paul Hawley is the saving grace of the group, creating the rhythmic simplicity that makes the White Stripes so charming, but throwing in twists of complexity that nearly save the band from its “listen and imitate” charisma deficit.
But only nearly. The real problem with Knock Knock Knock is that everything sounds regurgitated. While originality is not a must in independent rock, vitality is, and Hot Hot Heat seems to want to be liked more than it wants to be creative. It goes without saying that the members of Cure weren’t at their full potential as songwriters some of the time, but even with Robert Smith et al., at least they were cutely charming.
Even if Hot Hot Heat were entirely dire, that at least would mean they were going out on a limb. But they’re not dire. They’re totally unspectacular, and listening to Knock Knock Knock fills me with the same empty disengagement as seeing a once-offbeat dance club filled with the kind of people who wouldn’t ever talk to me, nor I to them.
[DJ Fatkid is awake at 6 a.m. for medical reasons … seriously]