There are very, very few punk bands that I listen to anymore. I don’t even find myself going to shows anymore, mostly because I don’t have the time or the extra money to drive two hours to Philly or NYC to see bands. That said, I was ecstatic when I learned months ago that one of my all-time favorite indie/punk bands, Hot Water Music, was going to release a new album, after eight long years. This is the band whose iconic flame and water logo is tattooed on my left arm. This is the band I drove to Atlanta for because it was one of the only reunion shows they played a few years ago, on New Years Eve.
I’ve always liked HWM because they’ve pushed the boundaries of what punk rock can be, especially on their first few albums released on No Idea Records. For fans, the dueling vocal style of Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard is unforgettable on those early LPs. HWM was also unique for injecting intricate guitar riffs and complex bass and drum patterns into their songs, as opposed to the boring power chord style of most punk bands.
The other day, the new HWM album, Exister, was delivered to my doorstep. I ripped open the box and placed the needle on the record. I’ll admit that I was nervous because like other fans, I had high expectations built up in my mind of what I wanted the album to sound like. Mostly, I wanted the band to return to its roots, to that distinct post-hardcore sound of the first few albums. Instead, the new album is similar to the band’s last few records released on Epitaph Records, one of the largest indie labels in the world. It is pure punk rock, fast and hard, with chugging power chords and roaring vocals. All of that said, I was just happy to hear this foursome churn out new music and a new album that is indeed packed with energy.
There are some tracks on the album, especially “State of Grace” and “Exister,” that will be staples at the band’s shows for years to come, if they decide to continue on and use this album as a refreshing new start to their long career.
I am sure some longtime fans will gripe the new album isn’t at all like the early LPs on No Idea Records. But why not just be happy HWM is back? They plan to do a full-blown tour, and it’s likely a lot of those old tracks will be in their setlists. I’m sure their shows will still be a stellar experience. I have never seen any band bring the energy that HWM brings to a live setting. Fans erupt into sing-alongs to every single song in the setlist. I look forward to seeing them play to packed clubs yet again, this time with a proper new album to showcase.