Hot Water Music

Feel The Void

Written by: PP on 11/04/2022 19:53:48

If your Hot Water Music appetite veers more towards their career-defining work rather than recent albums, then you'll feel right at home on their ninth album "Feel The Void". Think back to 2001's "A Flight And A Crash" and its follow-up "Caution", both seminal albums that helped define the Midwestern punk rock sound and inspire a legion of like-minded aspirants that today frequent festivals like FEST and Booze Cruise. It's a radical change from the polished and almost mainstream-esque catchiness of the brilliant "Light It Up" and the halfway commercial "Existed". Both were albums where raspy masterminds Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard had their own songs to perform, resulting in a significantly different dynamic between them than in the past, where they combined their talent in the same song.

"Feel The Void" brings back that dynamic, where Ragan & Wollard return to alternating lines, complementing each other's gravelly styles nicely. This is no doubt a byproduct of producer Brian McTernan returning for the first time since 2004's "The New What Next", but possibly also a result of the band revisiting their older albums in several album tours and shows recently. Additionally, Chris Cresswell from The Flatliners is now a fully-fledged member, bringing his flavor to songs like "Turn The Dial", which effectively could've been on "Inviting Light" given his high-flying, wide-open clean vocal style. His contribution is more muted otherwise, subtly placed in a backing role for the most part, as if not to shake things up too much now that we're on a nostalgia trip of HWM classics otherwise.

"Collect Your Things And Run" is probably the best song on the record. It features an echoing sing-along that contests against the best Wollard-led songs out there, resulting in an awe-inspiring soundscape that should become a regular classic within HWM shows for years to come. Likewise, "Hearts Stay Full" features Chuck Ragan at his howling best, with his whiskey-drenched gravel filtering through dense guitar lines and atmospheric passages sandwiched in between.

All of this also means the material on "Feel The Void" is a lot more challenging for the listener. It's no longer sugar-sweet choruses, but more about the depth-laden songwriting and slick riffs that fall within the signature-style Hot Water Music domain. Remember those countless hours that "No Division" and especially "A Flight And A Crash" required before they opened up? Welcome to "Feel The Void", where the rewards lie behind a mountain of listening work ahead. It's all about nostalgia-laden anthems and a raw, gruff soundscape just like you remember.

This approach brings both positives and negatives. To start with the latter, it means the infectiously catchy bangers like "Never Going Back", "Rabbit Key" or "Drag My Body" are nowhere to be seen here. I'm also not hearing a "Trusty Chords", a "Wayfarer", or a "One Step To Slip" on this record. Instead, it's more like the solid mid-album material from the aforementioned early classics. Rock-solid tracks that will bring you back to the days where Midwestern punk didn't even have a genre definition or a meaning of its own yet. But it also means that the depth of the material rewards those who aren't looking for instant gratification rather than longevity and repeat-listening value.

"Feel The Void" thus demonstrates Hot Water Music is still perfectly capable of writing an anthemic punk rock album that goes deep into the foundational roots of the genre - their roots - without sounding dated or derivative in the process. If anything, the record sounds perhaps more like a Hot Water Music record holistically than any of their earlier ones so far - and with "Ride High" capturing a back-chilling gravelly sing-along by Ragan with crunchy guitars, well, what more is there to ask for?


Download: Collect Your Things And Run, Ride High, Newtown Scraper, Feel The Void, Scratch On
For the fans of: Ship Thieves, Small Brown Bike, North Lincoln, The Draft, Make Do And Mend, Nothington
Listen: Facebook

Release date 18.03.2022
End Hits Records

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