Though today marks the official one year anniversary of the release of The Airborne Toxic Event’s third album, Such Hot Blood, it seems like it’s been part of my life for much longer than that.
That’s probably because I had most of its songs on constant repeat for a good seven months prior to its release, thanks to a combination of:
- live recordings from Red Rocks, Webster Hall and Koko
- the advance release of four songs on The Secret EP (not to mention their online debuts prior to the EP becoming available for purchase)
- Bombastic videos for “Timeless” and “The Storm”
- the KCRW webcast, which gave us an early taste of “True Love”
- the offer of an advance download of “The Fifth Day” when the album was preordered through TATE’s website
Suffice it to say, by the time the album officially dropped on April 30, 2013, I already had it 90% memorized, “Bride and Groom” providing the lone remaining surprise on release day. Nevertheless, I’ve purchased four copies of the album plus two copies of the EP, because I couldn’t stand to miss out on any of the perks associated with buying it at different times and in different formats.
So it will come as no surprise when I say that I adore this album. Its excellence extends from top to bottom, showcasing a band at the height of its powers musically, lyrically and creatively. Granted, the rough edges that made TATE’s first album so spontaneous and compelling have been long since polished smooth, which may not be to everyone’s taste. But in recording Such Hot Blood, the band returned to their earlier practice of recording live, with all members in the room, lending the most recent disc a freshness and immediacy that for the most part captures the live experience, while also benefiting from the wisdom gained over six years together as a unit.
And yet, with the band now in the process of recording their follow-up hot on the heels of the surprise success of “Hell and Back,” I have a nagging suspicion that we will someday be looking back at Such Hot Blood as The Airborne Toxic Event’s most tragically underrated album; an LP that got a bit lost in the shuffle of their career.
Even today, it feels like it hasn’t quite got its due. Though the fan base generally embraced the new material with enthusiasm, critical reviews were mixed, and the album just hasn’t been promoted as relentlessly as its predecessors. To wit:
- There was just one single released from the album, “Timeless”
- There was just one official music video released in support of the album (“Timeless”), compared to three for All At Once and five from the debut album (including two videos for “Sometime Around Midnight”)
- There were just three Bombastic videos released (“Timeless,” “The Storm” and “True Love”), after both earlier albums had Bombastics for every song
- The Such Hot Blood tour was the band’s shortest to date (in terms of total number of shows), and setlists regularly featured just a handful of songs from the latest album (often as few as three); half the tracks on the album have been played relatively rarely, and some only a couple times
- European bonus tracks “Dublin” and “The Way Home” are not yet available for purchase in North America, apart from purchasing the Euro version of the album through the Airborne merchandise store
None of this is intended as a criticism, mind you; just a rundown of the facts. There were no doubt good reasons for each of these decisions, which we are not privy to. On the touring side of things, a slowdown was inevitable; no band can keep up the inhuman pace that TATE set in their first few years as an act. Bassist Noah Harmon’s growing family may have also played a role here, which certainly no one would begrudge. But one does wonder what heights the album could have reached under different circumstances.
Looking ahead, it’s easy to see a scenario in which Such Hot Blood gets somewhat forgotten. With “Hell and Back” propelling TATE up the charts and deeper into the public consciousness, one would expect the next album to be pushed hard. Making room for even a handful of new songs in the live setlist requires a few beloved “oldies” to be phased out. It’s therefore unlikely that Such Hot Blood will see an increase in its live presence, and if anything it’s quite possible that it will be limited to one or two songs in future tour playlists.
And maybe that’s just the way it goes. TATE already has 40+ songs in their repertoire that we would love to see played live, and that number will soon grow by ten or more. Short of 3-4 hour gigs, we’re all going to see some of our favorites fall by the wayside (*weeps for “Innocence”*). And whichever 18-20 they choose to play on any given night, you know they’re going to kill it. Of course we’ll be left wanting more, but that’s the sign of a great show.
Nevertheless, it will be a shame if we see Such Hot Blood fall through the cracks. From made-for-stadium rockers “The Secret” and “What’s in a Name,” to the introspective and captivating “Bride and Groom,” “Elizabeth” and “This Is London,” to the rollicking “True Love,” the soaring “Safe” and the swelling “The Fifth Day,” this album has something for everyone, and contains some of the most cherished music in my collection. Whatever else happens, I will always remember 2013 as the year of Such Hot Blood – and a fantastic year it was.
Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.