It is a good sign for a new band when I as a reviewer find myself with one of their songs stuck in my head. Even more promising is when I’ve only heard the song maybe 3 times. And honestly it doesn’t happen that often for me anymore. Actually, let me back up… when I found The Hot Takes on a Bandcamp rabbit hole adventure one Wednesday, I was looking for local rock acts. I give most stuff I come across a listen but being Bandcamp, quality and mileage varies. I’ve heard so much music that for me to hear something new and go, “Well, I guess I have to buy this album now” is rare. And for a new song to leave me humming… well it’s got to hit some sweet spots and more importantly it has to be good especially when it is not resting on the straight out of the box dance beats I worship.
I don’t want to gush because I fear it would sound disingenuous but every song on The Hot Takes debut EP is single worthy material. And for long time music fans like me it is loaded, intentional or otherwise, with call backs to other bands I lived with. Almost like a cauldron of 80s alternative rock; Icehouse, Simple Minds, Hooters, The Alarm, Pretenders… Sure many people will exclaim Bryan Adams vibes! Fine. But The Hot Takes are the type of band that in the 80s you would’ve shouted, “They should be bigger than Bryan Adams!” Besides, I smell the fragrances of The Cure, Felt, R.E.M, The Chameleons, The Psychedelic Furs… I name check so many bands because:
1. I’m a music nerd.
2. So many fragments of one of my favorite genres converge here and it makes me glow to know artists are carrying that torch.
3. All the bands mentioned above were tight units from the first album on and everything on this EP signals a group that is one solid fully formed unit not merely a vehicle for one person to live their rock star dreams.
In many ways The Hot Takes remind of Fire Tiger from L.A. another band I LOVE at the moment. But Fire Tiger is more Journey and Night Ranger whereas The Hot Takes are more The Jam and Icicle Works. Anyway, one of the fun facts about the band is that they actually debuted in1984. But sometime that year they accidentally fell into a time warp to the present day.
Now, let’s go back to the top of this review and the song that was stuck in my head, “Hallelujah Superstar”. It is not just that the song is good with a great hook but it is fun! And in a weird twist, that song was stuck in my head once while I was dancing a frenzy to “Heaven and Hell”, the track opening the EP. The track announcing The Hot Takes arrival to the rock arena. Those may be the strongest tracks on an EP that REFUSES to slack off. The only thing missing is an epic request line ready prom power ballad.
Speaking of downtempo though, while I danced my arse off to “Heaven and Hell” let’s say I’m DJing and I’ve got a bit of a dub vibe going… Costello’s, “Watching The Detectives” is jammin’ and maybe Voice Farm’s cover of, “Nowhere To Run” or “Private Life”, by Grace Jones is lined up… I could easily slip on, “Out Of The Shadows” and all the 80s teens would be scrambling to figure out what obscure band I just played. I’m telling you people, they debuted in 1984! Of course once I lay that on the crowd then the obvious thing to do is follow it up with The Clash’s, “Bankrobber”.
This is an EP so yeah, it’s light on songs and damn it I want MORE! But as I said, every song is radio ready. Well- let me qualify that, KFOG around the late 90s ready. Today’s mainstream climate isn’t too welcoming to actual bands playing actual instruments. Grumble… can we just take the 808s out back like Old Yeller, already? I need some guitar driven hooks on the radio! The kind of music you grab a beer or a hairbrush mic and sing a long to as opposed to doing shots and sloppy dancing. The kind of hooks that make you drive fast. Oh, and did I mention that I detected NO Vocoder or overused auto-tune that mainstream is addicted to???!!!! Shocking to think musicians can actually carry the music without studio trickeries!!!
But to hell with mainstream- it’s go local or go home here at SoundwavesTV! And The Hot Takes are the kind of local act that we need to develop the Bay Areas unique regional style and carry on the traditions. Something distinct that can’t be mass produced. This is the kind of band you tell tourists and out-of-towners to drop some money on for a real Bay Area experience. Not to name drop again but frankly if they keep the level of quality going they could be next in line for the Huey Lewis and the News bar band throne; tight, rockin’, and a fun time on a Saturday.
Yeah, I LOVE IT if you couldn’t tell. It sounds great at home, in the car, on headphones, in the park and most importantly LOUD. Don’t be shy with the volume. I dare say the EP has made me excited about new pop/rock music again. In fact it prompted me to do a new show called New and New Wave mixing classic new wave and alternative with acts keeping the fires burning.
So here is the bad news. It’s a 5 song EP and I’m wearing it out. I need more! Well, we as music fans can help with that… Go and drop your dollars on the EP right here:
Ironically though being an EP is also a blessing because it forced them to trim off any fat and only deliver choice cuts! So many albums today are bloated with upwards of 14 songs to game streaming. It’s nice to hear something down and to the point. That said, as I mentioned above I think a ballad would’ve really given this EP that extra 11.
In the current mainstream music climate I can’t be certain that there is a place for a band like The Hot Takes on the Billboard charts or national mainstream radio like the glory days of 80s MTV. It is after all a landscape where you get what you pay for. But they certainly can be our hometown heroes. And so I say we back them with the same fervor we do with our sports teams and give all the visiting teams something to talk about.
Every. Single. One.