Review Summary: And after many years the messiah has returned.
I believe it was The Lawrence Arms' Brendan Kelly who once stated that by breaking up and taking themselves out of the market Hot Water Music boosted their popularity more than they ever could have by staying together because in doing so people realized just how much they missed the long time Gainesville, Florida punk act. Obviously I'm paraphrasing here, but he was right. Their hiatus turned them into legends. The first time I saw Hot Water Music in 2002 it seemed as though it was just another stop on what seemed to be one of a million on a never ending tour cycle that would stretch well on past the moment when life on Earth ceased to exist and the sun had met its doom in the form of an iron core. Those few years changed everything. Take for example last night's (May 26th, 2012) show at the Glass House in Pomona. It was a ***ing event! The mood wasn't of just another show, more like some defining moment in punk rock lore in the lives of all of those in attendance (or at least the part of the audience old enough to grow facial hair who stuck around after Touche Amore said their goodbyes for the night, but I digress...) that was something that we would wistfully tell our children with a gleam in our eyes. This same excitement was let out by the beard-punk community as a whole when it was announced that Hot Water Music would release their first album in eight years under the banner of “Exister”.
It's a fitting title to say the least because after the years of one off shows and fest appearances, with a proper album under their belts once again Hot Water Music really do seem to “exist” again, and in more than just the mythical stature that has followed them since the mid 2000's. “Exister” is written with the same vigor and well crafted attention to detail that made albums like Caution
and A Flight and A Crash
life changing albums for dudes in their late twenties clad in flannel, black jeans, and cabbie hats. It is a perfect balance of the melody oriented shift that began on Caution
and came to the forefront on The New What Next
and the firebrand punk that defined their earlier career, albeit now much more refined. Tracks such as the opener “Mainline” and “Paid in Full” pulse between monstrous power chord punch and concert ready sing-a-long style choruses in a way that few other bands can pull off so well while the more laid back numbers like single “Drag My Body” and “Safety” are more akin to the “big” sounding classics from the band, think fan favorites “Jack of All Trades” and “Trusty Chords”. The tag team of Chris Wollard and Chuck Ragan have never sounded so on point, as their post-hiatus endeavors have imbued each with greater vocal prowess – and the slick but still gritty enough production does it's fair share as well.
“Exister” is the perfect comeback album for one the punk scene's most revered bands. While it may not have that instant classic feel of Caution
, it more than lives up to its older brothers in every way possible. Time will only tell if it ever reaches that same level of glory and respect, but if the reaction to the news songs live is any indication, it is well on its way.