Music

Hot Water Music: The New What Next

Emily Sogn

Given the fact that fans of post-hardcore outfits like Hot Water Music tend to be as dedicated to consistency as the bands they love, The New What Next is sure to please them despite its shortcomings.


Hot Water Music

The New What Next

Label: Epitaph
US Release Date: 2004-09-09
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes
We've never tried to be anything other than who we truly are, or pull any wool over anyone's eyes. And since we've based our band around the bond and the friendship that drew us together to begin with, it has stayed honest. We also found that what stays honest, stays real. And reality is something that most everyone can relate to at one time or the other.
-- Chuck Ragan, singer and guitarist for Hot Water Music

This quote from an interview on Decoymusic.com well illustrates the intended aesthetic and philosophical approach of the Gainesville quartet Hot Water Music. This pledge to consistency is remarkable given that the arc of the band's 10-year career has been anything but steady. In fact, the band has undergone a number of profound shifts since their inception in the mid-'90s, including an ascent to popularity that fair exceeded the bounds of most hardcore punk bands in the still-burgeoning scene, a sudden break-up, an even more sudden reformation, and a subsequent leap to a new level of exposure and success following a slew of recent albums released on Epitaph Records. Yet throughout all of these changes Hot Water Music, as illustrated by the words of singer Chuck Ragen, have tried their best to maintain a palpable measure of sincerity and congruity to serve as the common thread that ties all of these disparate elements together. When used to inform an attitude and an image, this commitment to consistency is endearing and works in the band's favor, providing a touchstone of familiarity and trustworthiness to their music. But when it is translated into a modus operandi for their songwriting, this same regularity can turn into redundancy, robbing the band of vital opportunities for musical development.

For their most recent full-length release, Hot Water Music have chosen the title, The New What Next. I think that the title is meant to refer obliquely to the cyclical nature of crisis in modern politics. But it is an apt choice of words for another reason as well, because the music contained on the record is not new and it is certainly not what's next. That is not to say that the record does not have its high points. In fact, it is rather comforting to hear a band that is so apparently jubilant about making a record that fits perfectly into their catalogue of post-hardcore punk offerings. Somehow the formulaic nature of their arrangements doesn't keep the record from sounding sincere and energetic, even as they tread their way through some painfully over-familiar territory.

That being said, it's still evident that the band has progressed mightily from their early days as a straight-up hardcore outfit. The trouble is that when they departed from the highly charged, yet simply arranged blueprint of hardcore, they ventured into an area that was more musically complex, but overly polished and fraught with cliché. It's almost as if each musical flourish added in the studio somehow takes a little bit of the power that comes with simplicity, consequently making the band's authenticity a little bit harder to find.

The record opens up on with a song entitled "Poison", featuring chugging punk guitar riffs, Ragen's growling vocals, and righteous and combative lyrics that remind listeners of their hardcore roots almost as much as their sound does. When Ragen sings, "I could waste myself with politics, drown myself with wine, / Confine myself to solitude or inject poison into my mind", we all know that he is positioning himself against those things so that he can associate them with the apathetic masses that Ragen uses for a straw man. "The End of the Line" fares much better, led by frenetic drums, winding guitars and vocal harmonics that recall both Diary-era Sunny Day Real Estate and Bad Religion. Unfortunately, the melody winds down too quickly and ends up falling into sluggishness towards the end of the song.

The band picks up a bit of speed with "All Heads Down" a hook-driven crowd-pleaser with a buoyant single-note guitar lead that culminates in a chorus that almost crosses the line into metal with its raw intensity. The fifth track, "Under Everything", is similarly spirited, but veers into a different area altogether. Ragen's emotive singing and jangly guitars cause the song to bear an eerie but uncanny resemblance to U2. This near-ballad arrangement carries over to the next song "There Are Already Roses", a death-themed number with a catchy chorus and an impressively polished guitar solo halfway through. The next song, "Keep it Together", makes good use of the band's penchant for combining a number of different tempos in an almost orchestral arrangement. The song builds steam quickly, opening with a shimmer of cymbals and guitars, but just as the sounds begin to converge, they break down around the jagged rhythms of Ragen's vocals. Another high point comes just before the album's close with second-to-last song "This Early Grave", a bizarre yet invigorating tune book-ended by Chris Willard's virtuosic guitar playing.

Given the fact that fans of post-hardcore outfits like Hot Water Music tend to be as dedicated to consistency as the bands they love, The New What's Next is sure to please them despite its shortcomings. This is not an entirely bad prospect. After all, what the record lacks in innovation, it makes up for in obvious enthusiasm, muted as it may be at times. If, as Regan said, what matters to the band and their fans most is the fact that they have "stayed honest", then the record can be called a success no matter what this cranky rock critic, or anyone else says about it.

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".

Music

Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.

Music

Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.

Culture

Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.

Music

The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.

Music

Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.

Books

For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?

Music

Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".

Music

Becky Warren Shares "Good Luck" and Discusses Music and Depression (premiere + interview)

Becky Warren finds slivers of humor while addressing depression for the third time in as many solo concept albums, but now the daring artist is turning the focus on herself in a fight against a frightful foe.

Music

Fleet Foxes Take a Trip to the 'Shore'

On Shore, Fleet Foxes consist mostly of founding member Robin Pecknold. Recording with a band in the age of COVID-19 can be difficult. It was just time to make this record this way.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Books

'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.

Film

Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.

Music

3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".

Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.