Hot Hot Heat’s evolution has been an ongoing process since the band formed within the insular Punk community on Vancouver Island in 1999. The quartet started as a darkly toned, keyboard-heavy Punk outfit but quickly shifted to a brand of jittery, synth-fueled New Wave that recalled the danceable lockstep of Gang of Four, the hypercaffeinated blister Pop of XTC and the multicultural thrash of The Clash.
HHH’s Sub Pop debut full length, 2002’s Make Up the Breakdown, presaged a whole crop of subsequent New Wave-meets-Indie Rock youngsters and earned a press-kit full of acclaim, quickly winning the band a Warner Brothers contract for the 2003 reissue of Make Up the Breakdown and its sophomore album and major label debut, 2005’s Elevator.
Hot Hot Heat’s sonic direction began to morph with 2007’s Happiness Ltd.; longtime guitarist Dante DeCaro, who frontman Stephen Bays had long credited with providing the band’s skittering New Wave influence, left to join Wolf Parade and was replaced by Luke Paquin.
His arrival signaled a shift toward less obvious New Wave nods and a more concentrated dose of contemporary Indie Rock, with the Heat’s frenetic pace thankfully left in place.
Three years on, even more has changed in the HHH camp. The group’s founding bassist Ryan Hawthorne also left the ranks of the band (replaced by Parker Bossley) and the Heat severed ties with Warner and built its own studio.
The complete lack of label restraint might well be the defining quality of Hot Hot Heat’s fifth album, Future Breeds, as the newly refurbished quartet careens through this set with the giddy abandon of its earliest work and its freshly minted brand of inspired Indie Pop. There are moments on Future Breeds, particularly “Zero Results,” “Implosionatic” and “Nobody’s Accusing of You (of Having a Good Time),” where the Heat exhibit the freewheeling Indie carnival spirit of The Killers and Franz Ferdinand and the joyful Pop purpose of Jellyfish, an odd but completely wonderful intersection of sounds. Elsewhere, Bays seems to be channeling his inner Pixie on “21@12,” experimenting with avant Horror Pop on “Times a Thousand” and getting his Strokes on with “Goddess on the Prairie.”
Longtime fans may lament the lessened New Wave influence on Future Breeds, but they shouldn’t. This new Hot Hot Heat might be a little dryer, but it's so much more intense.