Review Summary: Old hardcore dudes keep it real with an album that covers all the hardcore bases.2 of 2 thought this review was well written
H2O's Nothing to Prove is a decent effort from an older band. The album has quite a lot going for it, from production by Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory and Shai Hulud fame, to guest vocals from NYxHC heavyweights like Lou Koller (Sick of it All), Roger Miret (Agnostic Front), CIV (Gorilla Biscuits and CIV), Freddy Cricien (Madball), and surprisingly, Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba. If you as a listener are looking for tuneful, hard hitting punk rock, you've selected a good album. Does this album hold up? Allow me to get on my soapbox.
H2O, first and foremost, is a positive straight edge band. What this means is that there will be hooky choruses, uplifting lyric and melody combos, and (if done right) a general good feeling throughout the music. The band definitely delivers these tenets on Nothing to Prove, even in the darker first verse of the tune Sunday, which refers to vocalist Toby Morse and guitarist Todd Morse's father dying when they were children. Some of the more positive tracks on NtP include 1995, the speedy opening track which portrays the band's struggle, Heart on My Sleeve, which is about being tattooed AND a contributing member of society, and Still Here, which is about staying clean and straight edge for life.
While the backing tracks are consistently good, the lyrics are where the casual listener may be turned off. Since most of the band is in their late 30's/early 40's, this leads to somewhat awkward or cheesy lyrics in some songs. The second verse of Sunday is about Toby Morse becoming a father, and he drops quite a few abbreviations that may not make sense to the average punk listener. Case in point is the cringe inducing line of "I am an S.E.O.G" (Straight Edge Original Gangsta) in Still Here. Lines like that really show H2O's age, as the last time I personally heard anyone describe themselves or others as an "O.G" was in the 90's. Some other fairly obscure terms that get thrown around on this album are L.E.S (Lower East Side), and P.M.A (Positive Mental Attitude).
One thing about this album that keeps the tracks from blurring together is that the band has included shoutouts from themselves, and their family and friends. Toby Morse's son, Maximus, makes quite a few appearances, doing the intros to 1995 and Heart on my Sleeve. For a number of tracks, the band will be talking amongst themselves about the subject matter that the next track deals with, such as the space before Nothing to Prove, where they talk about growing up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and "not forgetting our roots". The final track, What Happened, features a 5 minute collection of soundbites from everyone who helped the band out in the recording process. A listener will appreciate these breaks, as they allow some breathing time between the speedy blasts of music.
All in all, Nothing to Prove is alright. While there tends to be some cheesiness in the lyrics, this album is still good to throw on when out for a bike ride on a fine spring/summer day. They simply wrote an album of melodic, hooky hardcore, and do not fall prey to using any form of breakdowns. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.