So, we all know that reunion records are rarely great. With that caveat, Hot Water Music is back with their first new record since 2004’s middling The New What Next. Basically, this sounds exactly how you would expect it to.
The move to Rise Records hasn’t changed the sound in any dramatic fashion. Exister sounds like their Epitaph releases. The third song, “State Of Grace” even makes a reference to the the song “Trusty Chords” (from the Epitaph release Caution) with the whole bit about hating the taste of medicine. There is the rule though: never mention a better song in your song. Much of this record sounds like rehashing of their old records. While that makes for an enjoyable record, it doesn’t make for a great record. But, most people who are going to buy this have been drinking the Hot Water Music kool-aid for years by now.
Don’t get me wrong, “Safety” and “The Traps” are pretty solid songs. The opener, “Mainline,” is a great way to start a record. This just doesn’t feel like the same Hot Water Music. A lot of that has to do with the production. I know everyone is stoked on Bill Stevenson, but I just don’t dig his most recent production work. He has this tendency to make things sound way bigger than they need to be. Sometimes that works, but mostly it doesn’t. I don’t expect Hot Water Music to sound like the gruff punk rock band they used to be, but I also don’t expect them to fall in the list of overproduced. Simply put, there is no reason for any Hot Water Music song to sound like The Gaslight Anthem.
Musically, this is pretty solid. Definitely more in the gritty punk (re: Epitaph releases) than the Fugazi-ish post-hardcore (re: No Idea releases). Chuck Ragan sounds pretty good on this record. Chris Wollard, ehhh. When it comes to Hot Water Music, there is nothing new under the sun. As a full length, this is fine enough. Not great, but good. Had it been an EP it would have been great. So, file this as yet another middling reunion record.
Though this has nothing to do with the review, I do have a small quibble regarding the artwork for this record. They didn’t use artwork by Scott Sinclair. Are you kidding? I don’t know why not, and maybe there is a good reason for it, but to have anyone else do a HWM album cover seems wrong. Don’t get me wrong, Horesbites is cool and all. I really like the stuff he did with Less Than Jake. But, really? Shit looks boring.