The Great White Way's contribution to the ongoing '80s revival, Vancouver's Hot Hot Heat are neither stylishly urbane nor gutter-punk disgruntled, yet their vintage sound, tattered denim and questionable hygiene habits have thrust them into the upper echelon of the "new" new-wave punks currently stalking stages. Make Up the Breakdown
, the quartet's debut long-player, is a gaunt slab of post-punk that can't quite decide whether to smash its head against a (punk) rock, or hop on the good foot and do the bad (James Brown) thing.
Like their NYC peers Liars and the Rapture, HHH are adept at fusing dancefloor polemics with angular guitar atmospherics, yet their sound lacks the sweat-soaked sexual ardor that those groups flaunt so remorselessly. While frontman Steve Bays's dour delivery resembles a disco-tainted Robert Smith, the band lacks any real emotional component. As such, tracks like "No, Not Now" and "Aveda" settle for spasmodic herk-and-jerk action, never tweaking the heartstrings enough to be more than enjoyably puerile. Cowbells and drum machines can only get you so far; in the end, it's the heart and soul behind the music that keeps the listeners coming back for more.