Apr 062005
Authors: Nick LoFaro

Hot Hot Heat, "Elevator" -cover courtesy of Sire Records

Frantic, funky, fizzy and a little fuzzy, Hot Hot Heat is out with its new release, entitled "Elevator," and with the amount of fun that the members seem to be having, it won't be surprising to see this album rise in the charts.

They are now on a major record label, which surely means something, and they have been touring relentlessly. They've toured enough to have the word out that they put on a good live show. With all these good things happening to the Canadian quartet, it isn't surprising that the group members have solid classic rock energy flowing in their veins.

The band is Hot Hot Heat, not to be confused with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, the group has a similar taste for funk of the Chili Peppers's early-'90s days.

Hot Hot Heat has its sound pinned down on "Elevator" to the point where each song seems to have wild and crazy attitude but is also somehow harnessed or restricted. Each song relies on a similar format – unchanging vocals and repetitive, speedy-beats.

The band ise considered part of the "New Wave" craze – wait, is "New Wave" even a genre in music? Wasn't "New Wave" a title for electric flamboyant bands in the late-'80s? So, then now it would be "Old Wave," right? New or old? A wave? What? Anyways, to settle this genre conundrum, Hot Hot Heat sits in the "new" hot seat with bands like the Killers, Franz Ferdinand and the rest of the throwback bands.

The band does have a great flow of energy and originality on "Elevators," and it is always nice to see a band causing a ruckus of sound. Pianos and keyboards that engage in flirtatious combat with funk guitars is an interesting touch, too.

The album doesn't lose focus, but then again, the album's focus is given depth from the crafty poetics in the lyrics. Furthermore, the lyrics will only give depth to the sound if they can be interpreted through all the energetic musicians. Plays on words in songs such as "You Owe Me An I.O.U." are fun and clever, and they show that the songwriting process was not done in haste, which is a rather quality attribute for rock 'n' roll bands. On "Ladies and Gentleman" the lyrics swim in puns: "There's a gentleman who's not so gentle cause he's too generous with his chit and his chat/(he) plays a caricature of a character he wishes he was."

Hot Hot Heat's sound is tight, but each song seems to have used a cookie-cutter in the writing process, which will keep the steam from rising as the band tries to draw in different listeners. The fact that there are no guitar solos works well because they would still seem out of place in a band that distributes its spotlight evenly over all the members. The singer, Steve Bays, has a very limited vocal range and is rather irritating after even a short listen of a few songs. His voice sounds like a person with a cold hopped up on Robotusin and No Doze; it's obnoxious. But all in all, the rock 'n' roll is cool, no matter how hard it is to handle Hot Hot Heat's rambunctious energy.

The Crystal Method, "Community Service II" -cover courtesy of Ultra Records

Enter the Matrix! The Crystal Method's new compilation, "Community Service II," is a violent one. As synthetic as electronic music can sound to some people, the Crystal Method is notorious for creating some of the most intense and aggressive sounds in the world of the DJ.

The duo has taken parts of rock, hip hop, soul and funk, and has extracted the boundaries in between each differentiating genre and created a seamless blend of sounds that are given the majority of their power from the mean beats in the rhythm.

While listening to "Community Service II," you'll often find yourself thinking back to fights between Neo and that creepy white-collar dude in the Matrix, because the music on this album is a prizefight.

But there are some redundant areas throughout the songs, where the drum and bass might unfortunately make you picture a foggy club, full of people in chrome-clothing doing those creepy glow-stick dance rituals – you know, where their hands get all crazy and they look like they are holding a ball, but really, there is no ball?? Amazing!! Yeah, cue the full-body chills. That scene was almost as disturbing as the Macarena.

But alas! There is more redemption for the instrumental sound, because the percussion is so intense that over time it becomes a heart attack that is prolonging the end game. The beats are catchy, clever and connect all the musical elements in such a streamlined fashion that it just about has the same haunting effect that DJ Shadow has on his audience.

Two very cool songs involve two bands that had absolutely nothing to do with the electronic scene. On the song "Crystal Method vs. The Doors," the duo takes "Roadhouse Blues" and adds a whole new dimension to the immortal song. Even good ol' Mr. Mojo Rising would probably approve of the abstracted remix of his abstract jam. The Smashing Pumpkin's smash song "1979" gets a whole new adjustment in its chilling remix. The Crystal Method takes Billy Corgan's restless-youth anthem and fires it into a black hole. From there, the Method transforms the song into a galactic journey.

DJs, hip-hoppers, clubbers and Neos will all easily be seduced by the power of this electronic masterpiece.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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