Hot Water Music


Written by: PP on 24/10/2009 04:00:36

How Water Music this, Hot Water Music that. They've been the story of the scene for... well, a decade and a half now. Until about a year ago I knew exactly how they sounded like without having heard a single record by them simply because of the ridiculous amount of references the band has garnered in reviews across the web, even here on The pioneering melodic-but-harsh, raspy-but-powerful vocal delivery of Chuck Ragan/Chris Wollard duo is something that's often credited as the very reason why post-hardcore exists today, because if we look back at when these guys put out records like "No Division", "Never Ender", "A Flight And A Crash", and especially 2002's "Caution", they sat perfectly between the medium-paced Midwestern punk rock scene and the origins of today's post-hardcore scene. "Caution", in particular, is often seen as the album that finalized the bridging operation between punk rock, melodic hardcore and post-hardcore earlier this decade, and it's also the album that converted me into a HWM believer, something that most punk rockers are to start out with anyway.

Not surprisingly, it's also considered as one of the very best punk rock albums this decade, and also as one of the very important Hot Water Music releases that cemented the band as one of the four corner stones of modern punk rock (together with Rancid, Bad Religion & NOFX). You know why it's such a fucking great album? Because it's almost impossibly hard to grow into. At first, the songs sound like bland versions of early post-hardcore bands that didn't really make any impression on the listener, kind of like Small Brown Bike except worse. In fact, they sound like that for a looooooong time, I know, because I spent dozens of listens on "Caution" before it finally opened up for me. But as is the case with all 'grower' type of records, once "Caution" opens to the listener, it's like stepping into paradise for the first time. Everything about the album begins to click together, and you start wondering why there aren't other bands able to bridge together two completely different genres so seamlessly, and so perfectly. The alternating Ragan/Wollard raspy vocal duo obviously are one of the main reasons why the songs work so well because of the intense amount of emotion they put into every line in every song, but one mustn't underestimate the importance of the melodic guitar work in each song. You'll hear a track like "Not For Anyone" and fall in love with the lead guitar riff that's simultaneously simple and intelligent, or listen to the power chords of "Wayfarer" and stand in awe-inspiration over how Chuck Ragan's harsh vocals create a seminal nostalgia-filled atmosphere to the song. The band may resort into a classic "woo-ooh-woo-ooh" chorus in the song, but lets pause for a minute and understand that the reason why such a chorus is considered 'classic' in the first place is because Hot Water Music came up with it. Sure, The Misfits had their old school sing alongs back in early 80s, but HWM's take sounds so much more modern and relevant, even seven years after they were originally released to the public.

Album opener "Remedy" blows the Hot Water Music soundbox wide open with great production and deceivingly simple instrumentation, but the reason why the song catches onto an entire generation is because of Chuck Ragan's emotionally charged vocals full of warmth. You might have heard him on his solo release "Gold Country" and thought he was great, but in Hot Water Music's material he is universally considered as one of the very best vocalists in the genre. He's able to pack a perfect combo of gruff and soothing melody in his voice to make it sound melodic and rough at the same time, which is also the reason why his prolonged vocal croons bring back chills to most listeners.

"Trusty Chords" is perhaps the first song I'd recommend new Hot Water Music listeners to check out because of its easily accessible "heey-yeah, heey-yeah" chorus structure, but even when the band seems to play with simplistic elements, repeat listens will reveal more depth even while you are on your hundredth listen. I should know, because "Caution" is the record I listen to almost every night while at work, and even today I still keep finding new bits in it that blow me away. However, if you're in for a quick fix, "One Step To Slip" should be the track in your crosshair, because it's probably the most accessible Hot Water Music track to date together with "Wayfarer". Interestingly enough, this song too grows on you immensely even after the first listen when you think along the lines of "well this song is pretty fucking amazing and I understand why Hot Water Music are so hyped if all their songs are like this one".

There are simply too many highlights to name on the record without making this review excessively long, if it isn't that already. It's not the perfect punk rock album this decade, because Bad Religion holds firmly onto that title with "The Process Of Belief", and also because this one pales in comparison to the band's best output back in late 90s, but it's still one of those essential albums for anyone who likes punk rock - or post-hardcore for that matter. Plus it serves as an example of why the punk scene is just so much healthier overall than all the other scenes put together - save for metal - because even when Hot Water Music aren't at their best, they still overpower all the derivative bands that came long after they ceased existing. The question really is if you're intelligent enough to understand "Caution" or not?


Download: Wayfarer, One Step To Slip, Trusty Chords
For the fans of: Small Brown Bike, North Lincoln, Polar Bear Club, Jawbreaker
Listen: Myspace

Release date 08.10.2002

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