2002 was a good year for Hot Hot Heat. After two breakthrough releases in a matter of half a year -- full-length Make Up the Breakdown and the short but excellent EP Knock Knock Knock, not to mention an LP of previously released singles and 7-inches -- the band was responsible for putting our northern neighbors on the hipster map, being perceived as the cute Canadian cousins of The Strokes. Hot Hot Heat's sound was snotty dance rock driven by shrill organs and unusual melodies and rhythms. But after the flash of that one successful year and the incessant touring that followed, something must've happened. Actually, very little must've happened. Still awkwardly adjusting to its newfound fame, in the past few years Hot Hot Heat subsequently released a number of singles and EPs that made diminutive splashes in a sea of sound-alikes eager to cash in on the new-wave revival that HHH, the Rapture and the Faint were leading with their keyboards and organs on the front lines. And in that same sea, a nasty shark was slowly circling, giving the group no choice but to leap it with full force. With Elevator, Hot Hot Heat has jumped the shark.
With the exception of the closing track, "Elevator" -- which with extra-sharp production balances between simple piano lead-ins and swooning orchestral choruses -- the album stays consistently bland and proves an unimpressive, lackluster follow-up to the volatile pop of the group's previous material. The songs remain catchy, but there's just no X-factor that makes them exceptionally engaging or unique. "You Owe Me an IOU" stands out as the obvious single -- it has a pleasant pop appeal and a chorus that'll stick in your head for hours -- and "Shame On You" seems to be the only track that recalls the somewhat sinister qualities that the big hit from Knock Knock Knock, "5 Times Out of 100," made them known for.
Time will tell if 2005 treats Hot Hot Heat as well as 2002 did, but if this is any indication, this Elevator is going down.