Like a lot of young UK bands, the Hot Puppies mostly get by on attitude and the sense that they’re really aiming for the fences. From the opening notes of “King of England” on, you don’t hear any hint of North American indie reserve—when Becky Wood sings “I’m the King of England / so give me a piece of your heart so I can hang it on the wall” it’s both imperious and slinky (something to do with the bassline) and it works unreservedly. That mix of brashness and the kind of spiky, danceable rock the Hot Puppies make is nigh irresistible when its firing on all cylinders (see also “Clarinet Town” and “Secret Burial”).
When Blue Hands does slump, though, it’s due to too much cleverness—“Where the Werewolves Meet”, “How to Choose a Wife” and “The Word on the Street” all seem slightly too pleased with themselves lyrically and don’t back it up with indelible enough rhythms and melodies. When the Hot Puppies do calm down a bit, on “Somewhere” and “Orphans of the Storm”, they’re still just likeable, so it’s easy to chalk the missteps up to nothing more worrisome than youthful exuberance. As long as that eagerness results in more tunes as inescapable as “King of England”, let’s hope they keep trying.
// Notes from the Road
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