Release Date: April 18th, 2007
For their fourth time out, Sahara Hotnights came at us with an almost completely new sound. The single Cheek To Cheek promised a pop-minded, more dance-conscious side to the group. With its galloping beat and saxophone breakdown, it is the pinnacle of the band’s career so far. And, nothing on their new album, What If Leaving Is A Loving Thing, can match it.
Far from the rockier sound the group has ridden to success in the past, Leaving attempts to show a more mature side. Embracing elements of roots music, country and 80’s pop, most of the songs are interesting experiments for the girls. Opener Visit To Vienna is an unqualified success, a rollicking stomper that sounds like nothing they have ever done yet retains the simple catchiness of their past material. Other tracks are a bit more subdued, which is surprising for a band who used to be so boisterous. And, while everything sounds technically great, there just aren’t enough melodies that really entrench themselves deeply enough to prove memorable. Of the new rootsy sound (which does suit the band surprisingly well), Salty Lips is definitely the standout, a back porch singalong perched somewhere between Pat Benatar and the Dixie Chicks. The record looses a lot of its punch in its final third, though. Puppy and Static are about as boring as their titles, while album closer If Anyone Matters It’s You is Leaving’s most ineffective ballad.
While What If Leaving Is A Loving Thing tries on a new sound for Sahara Hotnights, it also seems to have forgotten that new sounds still require great songs. They’ve got at least three here, Cheek To Cheek being an absolute classic, and the rest comes dangerously close to filler. One can hope that this is just a transitional album and they’ll kick it into high gear next time. C+
Key Tracks: Cheek To Cheek, Visit To Vienna, Salty Lips