When I first heard Knock Knock Knock, Hot Hot Heat's debut for Sub Pop, I thought to myself, "these kids could make some interesting music." Mixing hard synth pop with a little bit of punk (but not much), they made for an enjoyable little listen, even though their vocalist sounded like a harder Howard Jones fronting Falco. More importantly, it embraced more substance of the "new wave" era, as opposed to the style that, while enjoyable, eventrually leaves the listener feeling empty.
Make Up the Break Down doesn't change the styles set down on their previous record; instead, the group have done a great job of honing down their abilities to produce a record that's polished and slick, yet immediate and raw. They go up and down with the beat, making all listeners immediatly move their feet. At barely over 30 minutes, these kids sound like club kids up on too much Mountain Dew and X and trapped inside an eternal 80s Retro night.
The album kicks off with "Naked In the City Again," a fast-paced little number that actually sounds more like early Dismemberment Plan than it does any 80s group. The album builds up and up and up, until it reaches track four, "Bandages," which is the ultimate climax of the record, which quickly shifts into "Oh Goddamnit," and...and..then...the album runs out of steam. Not that the rest of the album isn't any good, it just seems..so... anticlimactic, the formula already seems tired, and the rest of the record really doesn't differ from the first exciting moments. That their previous Sub Pop EP was only five songs long may seem to show that they're a band who works best in smaller quarters. Don't write off the last half of the record, though; "In Cairo," the last song, is a slow, piano ballad, it sounds nothing like the rest of the record, and is actually quite good.
Youthful excitement is great, it's fun, and Hot Hot Heat have that in spades. I bet these kids can tear it up live, too. As far as an album, though, Make Up the Breakdown might run out of steam halfway through, but I still bet their energy and vigor is much stronger than most bands. Not a disappointing little record at all. Good luck on your signing to a big label...you've got the star-attitude down. These kids in America need some good music!