HOT HOT HEAT with the French Kicks and the UNicorns at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Saturday and Sunday (December 13 and 14). Saturday sold out, Sunday $16. 416-466-0313. Rating: NNNNN
Apart from being edged out by Three Days Grace for best new band at the CASBY Awards recently, it's been a career year for hyperactive Victoria nu-wave attack unit Hot Hot Heat. After scoring high-profile guest spots on The Late Show With David Letterman and Late Night With Conan O'Brien, splitting bills with the White Stripes and No Doubt, placing two singles in the top 10 at L.A.'s hugely influential KROQ simultaneously, you know the members of Hot Hot Heat aren't too broken up by the apparent Edge 102.1 listeners' snub.
Considering that they've been playing shows and documenting their tuneful, synth-stoked pop pounding for four years now, there's some question as to whether Hot Hot Heat can be seen as best new anything. Well-'froed frontman Steve Bays doesn't seem bothered.
'I heard something about those awards," says Bays before a show in Albany, New York, 'but I don't know anything about that band. What are they called - Three Days Grace? Are they like Three Doors Down? Third Eye Blind? Or maybe Three Inches of Blood?
'We can't really complain. The Edge and a lot of other big radio stations like KROQ have been really good to us over the past year."
Even getting their Bandages single temporarily banned by the BBC during the early days of the Iraq conflict - when a mere perceived reference to wound dressing was cause for alarm - didn't really hurt Hot Hot Heat.
If anything, the ensuing controversy about the troublesome tune boosted sales of their Make Up The Breakdown disc, which is now Sub Pop's biggest seller next to Nirvana's Bleach.
'That whole experience of having our song banned was very surreal. It happened at the end of March, right around the time the Iraq conflict started, but the song was actually written 14 months earlier, when there was still no indication there would be a war.
'I mean, bandages was just a metaphor for covering up problems instead of dealing with them. I could've used any word that had a similar connotation.
'Since then, we started seeing people coming to our gigs wearing bandages. It got to be kinda funny. Some would even come wrapped up from head to toe like mummies!"
Hot Hot Heat's two-night Toronto stand at the Opera House this weekend (December 13 and 14) marks the end of their year-long road campaign in support of Make Up The Breakdown. Following a well-earned break, they'll get to work on a new album that this time will actually involve a budget. That means they'll get to record in a real studio for more than the six days it took to cut their debut with Jack Endino.
'Earlier this year," sighs Bays, 'we spent a week recording one song with Eric Valentine (Queens of the Stone Age, Good Charlotte, Joe Satriani), but we didn't like what we got. We realized pretty quick he was the wrong producer for us. We're now trying to figure out who the right one might be.
'We definitely weren't happy with the production on Make Up The Breakdown. It's very neutral. We don't want the new album to sound slick, but neither do we want it to come off like we made it intentionally lo-fi.
'I really like the sound that Tom Waits gets, although what he does might not work in our context. But who knows? It might be cool to try something like that, just to see what happens.
'I'm into going for the unexpected."