Hot Hot Heat has bet its cred by making this major-label debut endlessly catchy. Sure, catchiness has been a calling card of this Victoria, British Columbia, quartet since 2002's Knock Knock Knock, a Sub Pop EP that marked the addition of guitarist Dante DeCaro and the abandonment of synth-noise experimentation for straightforward indie rock. But that EP's post-Fugazi concoction of overwrought vocals, shattered funk guitar, and martial drums put the tunes in a catchy yet edgy context, setting the band in jagged formation with hip contemporaries like the Walkmen.
Not so with Elevator. Though the arrangements are only somewhat softened, they're now largely honed to traditional pop and new wave melodies -- think XTC, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, even Squeeze. It might lead some haters to note that DeCaro left the band after recording was finished. But from the date-dumping snap of "Goodnight Goodnight" ("You're embarrassing me") to the gothy swoon of "Elevator" ("Don't take me up/I'll only find my way back down"), the combination of trad-pop classicism and new-rock mannerism (those mewling vocals!) should win these Canadians at least another season far from the "Middle of Nowhere" that they know so well.