Hot Hot Heat’s stock hasn’t been on the upswing lately. There was a time, somewhere in the middle of the last decade, where their albums were landing in the Top 50, their singles burrowed themselves into the modern rock charts, and in general, found the band itself in the midst of the indie-stream surge along with Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie. Now, in 2010, the band is poised to follow up what is easily their most maligned work yet, Happiness Ltd., the general lukewarm response of which may or may not explain their current absence of a major label deal.
Future Breeds is, unsurprisingly, another slab of raucous, ridiculously catchy, guitar-driven alt-rock, with a few brushes of electronic dance and rockabilly swag to keep your feet moving. The record plays at one tempo, and seemingly encompasses one theme throughout; that doesn’t really lend itself to repeat listens, but it does speak for the group’s indisputable pop-writing sensibilities. No rock band does jaunty quite like Hot Hot Heat these days, and though lack of public awareness and indie label Dangerbird’s meager marketing power might prevent it, tracks like “Implosionatic” and “Zero Results” deserve to tear up rock radio like Hot Hot Heat hits before them.
Future Breeds is also remarkably well-produced, which is a little surprising considering this is the first time the band is handling knob-twisting duties all by themselves. In accordance with their frolicsome demeanor, they crank up all of their instruments to a near skull-invading level. The snare drum in particular sounds like it could knock over buildings. The album does a good job of reminding the listeners why they were Hot Hot Heat fans in the first place; it captures the essence of the band’s catalogue and uses it as fuel for newer ideas, and that’s a pretty good achievement for any album.
The problem here, unfortunately, is that Future Breeds is 12 tracks long, and by the eighth cut, “Jedidiah,” you’ve already heard everything the band has to offer sonically, and then some. The songs blend together in a rather blatant way, and that really doesn’t do the album’s coherency any favors; despite their best efforts, Hot Hot Heat still hasn’t crafted an “album” yet, only a decent collection of songs. That said, the songs here are built for live-show sing-alongs and are entirely easy to digest; you know, just like fun rock n’ roll should be.