Take it to the next level with Hot Hot Heat’s ‘Elevator’

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If you liked Hot Hot Heat’s debut “Make Up the Breakdown,” it’s OK to stop reading this to help decide if you’ll like their latest offering. You won’t. “Elevator” is probably not for you if you’re a big fan of that spotty but much-embraced effort.

Lovers of bubblegum and poppy hooks will enjoy this disc. There’s nothing wrong with wide appeal. Some bands prefer making money and have no problem alienating some of their core fan base. Maybe those fans had the band pegged wrong. As long as these guys are being true to themselves, they can sound as crazy as they like.

One thing about “Elevator,” though: It doesn’t sound insane at all. The album is a lot of fun, beginning with impressive tracks like the organ-driven “Running Out of Time” and the thumping power of “Goodnight Goodnight.”

Vivid, quirky imagery of breakups and unromantic couples appear on many of the tracks, enhanced by the clever cadences of the lyrics. “I haven’t slept a single night in over a month / And not even once did you start to make sense to me,” from “Middle of Nowhere,” are some of the nicer things lead singer and keyboardist Steve Bays has to say to his nameless ladies.

Eleven tracks are how many it takes to reach the closest thing to a bad serving on this disc. And “Dirty Mouth” is still good fun. That’s how satisfying “Elevator” is.

Killer sounds fill virtually every floor of “Elevator,” from the lively rhythm piano and minor falls that are the most endearing features of “You Owe Me an IOU,” to whiny staccato opening of the syncopated “Ladies and Gentlemen.”

Realism packs “Pickin’ it Up,” which delivers what it promises, dropping a heavy guitar- and organ-laden tune that demands toe-tapping accompaniment.

It’s not until the seventh track that things turn a bit somber and things slow down, but that “Jingle Jangle” only takes a minute to recover the breakneck pace that preceded it.

“Shame on You” possesses a brilliant, haunting energy, while “Island of the Honest Man” features interesting counterpoint and unsteady-sounding beat. Its ingenious incorporation of a sped-up version of traditional Hawaiian-style string picking gives the chorus an urgency impossible to convey through any other means.

The title track opens with the same melody as the rhythm piano “You Own Me an IOU.” Both the liner notes and track listing on the back start with 15 and work their way down to track 1, like the numbered buttons on elevators. But this cute motif does not make “Elevator” a true concept album.

A single obviously political song, track 12, “Soldier in a Box,” surfaces on this album, followed immediately by a momentary guitar screech that sounds like an error message. The possible subtexts range from the straightforward “this is track 13 on a disc called ‘elevator,’ so it shouldn’t exist,” to the more tenuous “war is wrong.”

Loyal fans of Hot Hot Heat declaring war on them for selling out and going mainstream, however, is clearly not right.