Sometimes, as an avid music fan, I tend to let new artists and bands I discover overshadow some of what I would call my "old standards." One that I've unfortunately let slip through the cracks over the past few years is Hot Water Music. This is a personal recollection of discovering the band and revisiting their catalog later.
I first got into HWM a year or so before graduating from high school. The thank you lists of many albums I owned had their name on it, and reviews of stellar live performances were scattered across the pages of zines I had collected. One day I was browsing CD's at Tuscaloosa's legendary Vinyl Solution (R.I.P.), and came across a copy of "No Division." I decided to take a chance and buy it that day. I remember being blown away after the first listen. They had a really unique sound that I felt was described inaccurately by all of the press I'd read about them. The rough vocals went into great melodies out of nowhere. It was a different breed of punk that I could not slap a label on. It was inspiring and exciting to me, musically and lyrically. I listened to it all the time, and quickly ordered the rest of their material from No Idea Records. My first package from No Idea came with some really random stuff along with the CD's, like a miniature toy skateboard and a Ninja Turtles trading card. "Fuel for The Hate Game" and "Forever and Counting", and the single tracks that make up "Never Ender" quickly got just as many spins as "No Division" in my CD player. I was definitely hooked.
My time frame here is a bit fuzzy, but the band signed to Epitaph and released "A Flight And A Crash" around the summer of my senior year of HS and the beginning of my stint at the University of Alabama. I got to see the band twice in that time period. The first time was at the Boiler Room, an awesome venue that was located on the North Side of Downtown Birmingham. I will never forget piling a few of my best friends in my mom's Buick and driving to that show. I am sure we looked completely ridiculous when we pulled up. The Boiler Room was essentially a HUGE open room, and even the most crowded shows there looked half empty. The turnout for that particular show was great, though. I was up front sweating and screaming the whole time. I have a flier for it somewhere at my parent's house which will be scanned and posted if I come across it. The second show I caught was sometime during my first year of college, and was with Less Than Jake and Bad Religion at The Tabernacle in Atlanta. They opened the show with a set mostly made up with songs from "A Flight...." and a couple of classics. I remember being a little let down, but they sounded great.
"A Flight and A Crash" and "Caution" both did very little for me. They are decent records, but neither grabbed me like any of the four that got me into the band. They also released "The New What Next" later on, which I might have listened to once. Fast forward a few years and plays here and there, and those records that once spoke to me in a big way are just sitting on the shelf. The news of their break up or reformation didn't spark me to start listening again, either. I was sitting at work recently thinking about how much fun I had in that particular time period, and out of nowhere, a line from the song "Our Own Way" popped into my head. "...There will be times when it will seem like we are caught someplace in between the ocean and the storm without a shore." Just like that, a band I thought of as a soundtrack to a youthful transition spoke to me again. I might have made a mistake by letting those records sit stagnant for a while, but maybe I just needed to let those lines and melodies age a bit to help me out at an even more confusing time. Simply put, I had a much better outlook on life when I got into Hot Water Music. I was excited to be starting college, excited for every single show I attended, and nothing seemed routine. Things change, and there is no way to escape that. Here's to records that bring my mind back to a place where those changes could be for the better.