Even with some seriously lame moments on major labels, returning to an independent doesn't help HHH at all. In fact, they produce the worst album of their career.
Light years ago, I was writing constantly for a publication/website called Sex & Guts. One day, Sub Pop sent me a promo package containing an EP from a band with a silly name, Hot Hot Heat's Knock Knock Knock (this was around 2001 or 2002). Upon listening, I was shockingly floored -- frenetic energy, massive hooks, huge rhythms; I knew the band was going somewhere and wouldn't fall into obscurity like many new indie rock groups do.
Then came 2002's Make Up the Breakdown a full-length that had critics everywhere on their knees, bowing to post-punk revival's new gods (The Rapture would become the next saviors). Even on an indie label, it made a small splash with the single "Bandages", getting a bit of airplay on commercial radio and those MTV offshoots that actually play videos from artists other than Rihanna or the Black-Eyed Peas (those are the only popular acts I actually really know at this point; sorry if I come off as ignorant).
Then something terrible happened. Hot Hot Heat signed to a (dare I utter the words?) MAJOR LABEL. Critics across the world had brain embolisms. Here's yet another reason to hate me: HHH's major label debut, Elevator, is actually the best album they ever recorded. Sure, a lot of the wanton creativity was toned down, and, sure, I absolutely loved Make Up the Breakdown (and had delusions of being a big deal because I had the jump on them before their popularity), but the hooks on "Elevator" were just tremendous, and being a big pop guy, how could I possibly contain my pleasure?
They followed that with Happiness Ltd., seemingly an ultimatum from the record label to either get on the radio or pack their shit. It was OK (another statement lacking eloquence, but, seriously, it was just OK). Even still, "OK" is better than Future Breeds, an album devoid of a single excellent song, an album so forgettable that this review is about to end, because I forgot what I was talking about.
The only thing that qualifies as a decent track is "Zero Results," which is funny, if you think about it. Try it.
We're barraged by complete dreck/dross like "What Is Rational?" and "Buzinezz as Usual" (and song titles as embarrassing as that are not going to help anything). This is what happens when your major label drops you? You lose everything? Shouldn't the return to independence spark ultimate creativity? I can only sum up the music in three words: noisy, tuneless, and empty. I cannot comprehend why my brothers in criticism, across the board, are saying this is HHH's "best album in years". Pesky subjectivity.
So, I'm not saying with future releases Hot Hot Heat cannot redeem themselves. But after this debacle, I really don't give a damn whether it happens or not.
They had a good run.