Way back in 2002, Victoria’s Hot Hot Heat burst onto the scene with an energetic— sometimes clumsily so—debut album called Make Up the Breakdown. The pop quartet boasted fun, danceable singles that lacked in production flourishes but made up for in panache. The group’s big-label debut, 2005’s Elevator, traded some of the group’s awkward charm for slick polish. Hot Hot Heat’s third album, Happiness Ltd., continues the trend.
Anchored by singles “Give Up?” and “Let Me In,” Happiness Ltd. combines the band’s danceability with a maturity not seen on previous Hot Hot Heat albums. The songs are all deftly-constructed and the album well-paced. However, it lacks the sense of spontaneity seen on previous releases. On their debut, singer Steve Bays and the group presented a tremendous lack of finesse, but the album worked on a whole because of it. After the band’s big-label break, it seems as if their fearless nature has been replaced by a self-consciousness that makes Happiness Ltd. feel a little too planned-out. Only “So So Cold” retains some of their earlier attitude.
Hot Hot Heat has come a long way since their initial bow, transforming from energetic indie darlings into a polished opening act for the Killers. Keeping in mind their career progression, Happiness Ltd. is precisely the album
they should be producing at this point: effortlessly listenable but disappointingly safe.