Hot Hot Heat / The Departure - Manchester Ritz - 28.4.05

Sometimes you uncover something and step away from it without realizing the monumental fact that you've stumped upon. When we realized earlier this month that David Jones was the "Only Human" member of The Departure who wielded a machiavellian level of control over the cyborg members of the band it didn't occur to us that they could all be aliens. To look at them now both Jones and bassist Ben Winton look so uncannily like the future Doctor Who in waiting David Tennant, if the Departure meet an unsticky end f*cked over on Feeder tours then they've got a career as stunt doubles. It's a role you imagine Jones would be perfectly cast for, while Winton would turn back time and play Tennant's sex double in Casanova seducing women with his funky bass lines and dance moves. Hot Hot Heat's crowd have no idea and concept of this and with the exception who get the Departure, they stand motionless as they work their way through a greatest hits set including "Be My Enemy", "Only Human", "Just Like TV", "Lump In My Throat" and "All Mapped Out". A new song, a B-side to the re-released "All Mapped Out", offers no clues as to where the Departure are set to go next with a vibe that's as equally funeral funk as it is pure pop. That I guess is the beauty of the Departure, once you think you know them, they uncover a new level.

With Hot Hot Heat is was sadly a case of wrong place and wrong time. "Bandages" was such a energetic 3 minute pop single that bizarrely got banned as a list of tunes "not suitable to soundtrack wars" and their influence on bands such as the Killers and the Bravery is undeniable. They had a foresight to predict a musical evolution, but were too early for most people to catch on, but they also have the genius to realize that the time to move on is now. They still have an arsenal of pop hooks at the ready with "Goodnight Goodnight" being the perfect example, but not it's filtered through a Cure cover Elvis Costello production line technique. You could say it's all about the songs if you were over 40, but with HHH it's as much about Steve Bay's mop of hair and the fact he runs around his keyboard like he's attached to it by some elastic bungee contraption. With a set mixed up of new tracks from "Elevator" such as "Running Out Of Time" and "Jingle Jangle" and older tracks "No, Not Now" and "Oh, Goddammit" they made us remember why we loved them in the first place.

Hot Hot Heat are outsiders yet again and it's a position they revel in. Let's just hope that next time they don't leave it quite as long between albums.

Alex McCann

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