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Album Review: Hot Water Music – “Light It Up”

Before Hot Water Music was a band I loved, they were a band I wanted to love. From the outside looking in, there’s an undeniable something about the band’s output that makes you wish you were a part of it. Maybe it’s the minor cult of personality surrounding Chuck Ragan– Hemingway-styled man’s man and gravel-throated troubadour. It could be the name too, Hot Water Music— a name shared with a short story collection by Charles Bukowski. Then, of course, there’s the music itself. At once groove-based, experimental, airy, and tightly interlocked– then also, inherently singable, loud and anthemic. With so many ideas making up the core of Hot Water Music, it’s easy to forget that the actual core of the band is four people: Chuck, Chris, George, and Jason. And more than anything, how each member irreplaceably contributes is what makes all the difference.

I have fond memories of Fuel for the Hate Game, it was my first Hot Water Music album, and as music cliches go, it’ll probably always be my favorite. I had already heard Fugazi, so I at least had a band to namecheck against its post-hardcore approach to melody and rhythm. “Turnstile” the most unabashed punk banger on the album, reeled me into the new waters, and soon the rest of the album followed. By the time Exister came out, I felt like a seasoned fan, rolling around in the muck and excitement of a new Hot Water release.

Well, we’ve come to the end of one release cycle and entered a new one. Fittingly, it’s time to write one of my favorite collections of words: Hot Water Music is back. Light It Up wants you to know from the get-go that it is a Hot Water Music album, both a continuation of what they’ve been doing years and a sonic scrapbook. Before you even start spinning, the album artwork hearkens back to the wonderful and abstract cubism of Scott Sinclair’s art. Then, there’s also the fact that this album, for the first time since Fuel for the Hate Game, is totally produced by the band. For better or worse, this release carries with it the same weight as a self-titled album. Hot Water Music wants you to know they’re back, and across Light It Up, they’re exploring everything that makes them unique.

Light It Up is a latter-day Hot Water Music album, so game-changing is out of the question. In this stage of any band’s career, there are few boundaries to adequately explore that don’t feel perfunctory or worse, stale. The best you can hope for from a band with a handful of classic albums is that their new stuff is what they’re excited about playing. And continuing the theme of distilling the essence of Hot Water Music– the time honored back to roots approach of latter-day album making– they have reintroduced some of the band’s old idiosyncrasies that were sadly missing from Exister. The Chris Wollard led tracks are the most obvious in these regards, as they usually are. “Vultures” verses are shouted, a throwback to the band’s own hardcore influence and “Overload” is carried by the bass fills that have been with the band since the start. On “Show Your Face,” we get to hear a more aggressive Chuck Ragan delivery than usual, with him barking the opening verse. Hearing Chuck tap into his punk side a little more on this album is a real treat, as I thought some of the most off-notes of Exister were when it felt like we got the electric B-sides of a Revival Tour jam. He actually delivers the angriest track this time around– “Sympathizer”– a mid-tempo banger with a nasty minor-key riff that punctuates lines like, “It’s safe to say you burned our bridge!” It’s an easy standout in an album full of quality songs.

“Bury Your Idols” is a Chuck Ragan-belter that begs to be screamed along to in sweaty crowds. This song and others, bring to mind that as Hot Water Music has aged, they have settled comfortably into a punk rock sound that takes as much from early Bad Religion as Fugazi. The hearty and melodic woahs that appear across Light It Up make the case well, and while I could argue it strays the band further from their core (but, I could also point to “Wayfarer” off Caution and wonder what the fuck I’m talking about in the first place), they execute everything with such gusto that it’s hard to say any one element doesn’t belong. Big woahs aren’t what I go to a Hot Water Music album for, but they make for sweaty communion in the live setting. And if anything, that might be what has guided the band from an angular post-hardcore outfit to gritty anthem-writers– it’s hard to project yourself onto twisting rhythms, but traditional songwriting is tried and true and more connective than most of us want to admit. The fact that Hot Water Music hasn’t totally bled out all of their abrasion is a minor miracle. “Light It Up” is literally a marriage between the past and present, one of their fastest tracks in a long time, filled with fast-spitting vocals and yes, a big woah chorus.

The album closes with “Take You Away,” an impassioned track with a killer lead vocal performance from Chuck Ragan and some call and response. And I think, that is essentially why Light It Up works so well. It’s not groundbreaking for Hot Water Music, but it makes good on every disparate element of their music and delivers in the spirit, if not the exact formula– it’s passionate, but also, it has integrity. It comes through in the vocal performances, the emocore-hearkening lead on “Rabbit Key,” the fluid basslines on “Complicated,” and George Rebelo’s glue like drumming that keeps so many strong voices on the same team without losing his own.

Again, I take a deep breath and say my favorite words: Hot Water Music is back. Light It Up is a record of songs that wanted to be written, an album that respects the past without slaving to it. As an entity, Hot Water Music has already made their bones, and with Light It Up, they’re telling the world they plan to keep them.

4/5



Knuckle Puck release video for new track “Double Helix”

Chicago-based pop-punks Knuckle Puck have released a music video for their new track “Double Helix”. The song is taken from their upcoming album “Shapeshifter” which is due out on October 13th via Rise Records. Check out the video below.

The band will begin their headlining tour on October 11th with support from from Movements, With Confidence and Homesafe. You can find the full list of tour dates here.



Goldfinger announce Midwest and West Coast dates

Goldfinger have announced a Fall tour of the Midwest and the West Coast.  A portion of the dates will be supporting NoFX and Bad Religion – the band have booked some headline shows around those gigs. The string of shows kick off September 9 at The Rave in Milwaukee, WI and conclude October 15 at Booney Field in Sacramento, CA. The tour will promote  their recent album “The Knife”, out via Rise Records.

A full list of dates in below.



Hot Water Music release video for new song “Complicated”

Hot Water Music have released a video for new song “Complicated.” Give it a watch below.

Bassist Jason Black had this to say about the lyrical content on the song:

“The basic gist of the lyrics is that, civilized/Western/first world cultures are destroying the planet; even those of us with the best intentions can’t make the difference we’d like, because life and the circumstances surrounding [us] are complicated.”

The song is taken from their upcoming album “Light It Up” which is their first album in 5 years. It due to be released on September 15th via Rise Records.



Tiger Army stream music video for “Dark and Lonely Night”

Legends of psycobilly Tiger Army are allowing fans to stream their latest visual offering. The tune selected to accompany the music video is “Dark and Lonely Night”, a ballad from the band’s 2016 album V …_ which was released on Rise Records.

You can stream the video in full below.



Silverstein release music video for “The Afterglow”

Canadian post-hardcore veterans Silverstein have released a music video for “The Afterglow”. The video is made up of clips from their recent performance at this year’s Warped Tour.

The track is taken from their latest release “Dead Reflection” which came out on Rise Records . Give it a watch below.

The band will be heading off on tour later this year, you can find the dates below.



At The Drive In Announce UK Tour Dates

Post-hardcore veterans At The Drive In have announced some November UK tour dates.

You can check out all the dates and locations below.

At The Drive In last released in•ter a•li•a on May 5th via Rise Records. It is the band’s first full-length release since 2000’s Relationship of Command.



At The Drive In release animated video for “Call Broken Arrow”

At The Drive In have released an animated video for “Call Broken Arrow”. The song  is from May’s Rise Records album, “in•ter a•li•a”, the band’s first in 17 years. 

You can watch the video below.



The Movielife stream “Ghosts In The Photographs”

 

The Movielife are streaming another new track. The band’s first effort in 14 years, “Mercy Is Asleep At The Wheel”, released back in June, has been followed by “Ghosts In The Photograph” – just as strong a track. Both songs are from upcoming LP “Cities In Search Of A Heart”, out September 22nd via Rise Records.

Listen to the track below.



The Flatliners stream video for “Indoors”

Ontario punkers The Flatliners invite you to sing along with a karaoke themed video for their track, “Indoors”. Watch it below!

The track comes from the band’s latest album,  Inviting Light, released this past April on Rise Records.

The video, which certainly seems to feature Dan Hedaya (the litigator Dad from Clueless) as a crowd-favorite karaoke star, rocking out with a parade of regular folks taking their turns at the mic. If it ain’t him, don’t sue me. I love Clueless.



Dave Hause streams his latest music video “The Flinch”

Singer Songwriter act Dave Hause is streaming his latest music video “The Flinch”.  The song is from his latest album “Bury Me In Philly”. Watch it below.

In the video we get to see a young Dave Hause go from listening to a living room record player to playing a sold out rock show. The video, which was directed by Mike Gill, stars Dave Hause’s nephew Judah, as a young Hause and features live footage from Houses’ Free At Noon performance from earlier this year.

Dave will soon begin his tour with Beach Slang and Tiger Army. Check out the dates here.



Dave Hause announce fall tour dates with Beach Slang and Tiger Army

Singer Songwriter act Dave Hause has just announced his North American tour dates for the rest of the summer and through beginning of December for a headlining tour with Beach Slang and Tiger Army. The run is in support of his most recent release Bury Me In Philly out via Rise Records.

Hause will begin with an appearance this Saturday July 19, 2017 at XpoNential Fest in Camden, NJ.

Check out the tour dates below.



The Movielife And The Early November Announce Fall Co-Headlining Tour

The Movielife and The Early November have just announced their upcoming fall co-headlining tour. Taking in 20 evenings across the U.S. and Canada, the tour features The Movielife performing songs off its first album in 14 years, Cities In Search Of A Heart (out on Rise Records on Friday, September 22) as well as fan favorites, and The Early November performing its 2003 debut album, The Room’s Too Cold, in its entirety.

Kicking off on Monday, September 18 at The Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA, the tour will visit cities including Philadelphia, PA on Tuesday, September 19, Brooklyn, NY on Friday, September 22, Chicago, IL on Tuesday, September 26, Austin, TX on Sunday, October 1, West Hollywood, CA on Wednesday, October 4, Berkeley, CA on Saturday, October 7, and Sneaky Dee’s in Toronto, ON on Saturday, October 14. Heart Attack Man (Triple Crown Records) will be opening dates on the first half of the tour and Racquet Club (Rise Records) will be opening on dates on the second half. A full listing of all the dates on this tour can be found below.

Cities In Search Of A Heart—The Movielife’s first offering since 2003’s seminal Forty Hour Train Back To Penn—marks the band’s triumphant return to form, and is an album that shows how much the group’s songwriters—vocalist Vinnie Caruana and guitarist Brandon Reilly—have grown, offering up their most inspired and energized songwriting to date. Whether you’ve loved The Movielife since they were a scrappy Long Island hardcore band in the early 2000s or you’re a recent initiate, it’s difficult not to get caught up in the kinetic energy and lyrical honesty that permeates every note of Cities In Search Of A Heart.



Goldfinger stream new album “The Knife”

Goldfinger‘s new album The Knife was released today, July 21st, through Rise Records. The album is streaming is available to stream on Spotify. Head over here to give the record a listen.

The Knife is Goldfinger’s first LP in nearly a decade, following 2008’s Hello Destiny. The band will be touring in support of the record this summer. See if they’re playing near you below.



DS Photo Gallery: The Flatliners, Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale and Dan Webb and The Spiders (Cambridge, MA)

If you’ve read any of the online comment sections surrounding the release of Inviting Light, the latest full-length from The Flatlinersyou’re no doubt aware that critics of the band feel they lost a couple miles (or is it kilometers?) per hour off their collective fastball. Let this be yet another lesson to you as to why it is never, ever a good idea to read the comments; let it be known that The Flats still slay.

As the northeastern US leg of their Inviting Light tour wound down, the band found themselves headlining a sold-out Sunday night show at the legendary Middle East nightclub in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The band kicked off their hour-plus set with “Mammals,” the slow burning lead track from Inviting Light, and seemed to have the capacity crowd hooked from the first notes. I’m not entirely certain if the band finds that reassuring, but I know that I do personally, given the amount of love I have for Inviting Light and the prevailing chatter about the band’s first non-Fat Wreck release in a decade. The quarters at upstairs at the Middle East are cramped and hot and sweaty when the venue is sold out, but the crowd was in high-energy motion by the time the crescendo built to the first chorus in “Mammals,” resulting in the first stage dive attempt of the night (albeit not an overly successful one).

The band tore through a seventeen-song main set that was pretty equally representative of their recent catalog, with four or five songs each from Inviting Light and it’s two immediate predecessors (2010’s Cavalcade and 2013’s Dead Language), though the two song encore consisting of “He Was A Jazzman” and “Shithawks” ultimately tipped the scales in Cavalcade‘s favor. Frontman Chris Cresswell’s voice sounds just as snarly and aggressive as ever when he wants it to, though he’s really pushed himself as a singer in more recent years. A lot of times in the live show of a rather dynamic band, you’ll find the bass player locked in to his spot at the drummer’s side allowing whoever is singing or playing guitar (or both) to roam and wander, both literally and musically. That’s not the case in The Flatliners, as the rhythm section of Paul Ramirez (drums) and Jon Darbey (bass) exhibit little in the way of interplay on stage yet remain more musically locked in the vast majority of their counterparts, making it look both infectiously fun and frustratingly easy in the process. Cresswell and lead guitarist Scott Brigham have grown immensely as guitar players over the years as their sonic palettes have expanded, and they too seem to bounce off each other in effortless, symbiotic ways. Much has been made of this being the year that not only do all the band’s members turn thirty (which boggles the mind) but the year that the band itself turns fifteen (which causes the mind to explode, Scanners-style), giving the band a well-earned reputation as valiant road warriors. If Sunday’s show — and specifically the crowd reaction — at the Middle East was any indication, they may actually just be hitting their stride now, which is a pretty inspiring thing.

Direct support on this entire tour was provided by Pkew Pkew Pkew and Red City Radio‘s Garrett Dale, the latter doing the solo troubadour thing. We’ve been big fans of the four handsome Torontonian Pkew fellas since their self-titled debut album was initially released a year ago on Royal Mountain Records a year ago, so news not only of their spot opening for the Flatliners but the more recent announcement of their having signed with SideOneDummy Records has made for pretty exciting times. The band’s live show is just as fun and high energy and handsome (did we mention handsome?) as their album is, and even though a lot of the songs might be straight-forward jams about hanging out and drinking beers, don’t let that fool you; these dudes can really, seriously play. There’s a camaraderie between not only the individual band’s members but really between all the members of this two-week East Coast jaunt, with the Flats, Pkew Pkew Pkew and Garrett Dale making frequent references to the good times they’ve been having on this trip. Dale is another classic example of not letting the occasionally straight-forward nature of the songwriting fool you; in the solo format, he’s got a gravelly voice that is full of the kind of heartbreaking soul guys like Chuck Ragan and Tom Waits have made their hallmarks, and it forces you to take notice whether he’s singing about lost love or seeing a dead body or, well, the devil’s weed.

Local support on this show came by way of Dan Webb and The Spiders.  DWaTS are one of those local bands that I’m sure most scenes might have that really should be bigger than they are. The four-piece rock-and-roll band plays hard and fast, a not-quite-punk-rock but also not-quite-90’s-alternative vibe that cuts across genres and makes them a perfect fit on a fairly wide range of bills, especially on one as varied as this particular show. One of these days, DWaTS…one of these days…

Check out our full photo gallery below. While you’re at it, the Flatties recently announced a set of West Coast tour dates around the US and Canada. They will be accompanied by The Smith Street Band, up until It’s Not Dead Fest. They are also adding a few dates to the end of July, in Canada, supporting Sum 41Check out all the dates here