Hot Water Music

Exister

Written by: PP on 07/06/2012 03:40:03

Few bands have achieved a status as revered as Hot Water Music have over the years. They are considered one of the cornerstones of modern punk rock given how they almost single-handedly pioneered the 'beard punk' style in the 90s and spawned thousands of soundalike bands in their wake, and how they basically created the original post-hardcore movement together with other seminal bands like Fugazi and Refused in mid 90s. They disbanded in 2005 after a string of classic albums that even in 2012 are still looking for a match within this genre ("Fuel For The Hate Game", "No Division" and particularly "Caution") and beyond, and had only been playing sporadic reunion shows until last year when it was announced that the band were working on "Exister", their first studio album in eight years.

While reunion albums often end up as nostalgic and retrospective looks at the glory that once was, "Exister" is unique in the sense that it sees Hot Water Music take yet another step in their evolution from the grungy and rough post-hardcore band that started in 1995 towards a more mature and contemporary rock band. "The New What Next" in 2004 already signalled a toning down of the punk element in favour of a cleanly ringing and melodic, yet raw and passionate sound, and "Exister" is basically the logical continuation of that development.

Because years have passed by since then, everyone in the band sounds older, most audibly in Chuck Ragan's voice that has seen a metamorphosis much alike Tim Armstrong of Rancid on their latest album. He's a little smoother and goes more for clean singing instead of his trademark roar than in the past, and while that description might frighten some returning fans, fear not: like good wine, Ragan's roar just gets better with age. In fact, together with his vocal partner Chris Wollard, the duo prove yet again that they are the uncontested kings of coarse, gravelly vocals, with the perfect mixture of raw passion and smooth maturity. Show me a vocalist that can pack as much emotion and back-chilling melody into his voice as Ragan/Wollard on the prolonged roars in "Pledge Wore Thin" within this scene? They are truly one of the greatest vocal duos the music industry has seen to date, and how they continue to be so criminally underrated is beyond me.

But what's always been best about Hot Water Music is their versatility. The band can floor the pedal for a punk rock song (as in the opener "Mainline" here), they can deliver quality mid-tempo riffing ("Safety"), or they can slow things down to a groovy, almost singer-songwriter vibe ("No End Left In Sight"), yet all styles work almost equally well. What's more is that no matter which style they choose, the band always come across as genuine and convincing.

So where does "Exister", their eighth album, stand in comparison to the Hot Water Music back catalogue? Reunion albums are usually shit, but that's simply not the case here. Despite an eight year absence, "Drag My Body" is one of the greatest songs Hot Water Music has written to date, and the more aggressive "The Traps" is right up there in the mix as well. Sure, the band will never write another "Trusty Chords", "Wayfarer" or "One Step To Slip", but they have long since surpassed the simple wooah-wooah chorus structures into something more mature and more intellectual. That's where songs like these or "Drown In It", "Pledge Wore Thin" come in. They are the very definition of solid post-hardcore inspired, punk-fuelled contemporary rock. Where others follow, Hot Water Music leads, and with "Exister" they deliver an album that might not be an outright masterpiece, but is not far off, and certainly falls safely just underneath the best three or four records they've written during their career. Barely.

8

Download: Drag My Body, Drown In It, Pledge Wore Thin, The Traps
For the fans of: Make Do And Mend, Paper Arms, Small Brown Bike
Listen: Hot Water Music

Release date 15.05.2012
Rise Records

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