Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin, Ireland. 27, history, politics & law graduate
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Dec 10

Hot Water Music - ‘Southeast First’ from No Division (1999)

I just put the lyrics in the previous post, but I think you need to hear them in the song to properly appreciate them. And the awesome, but frankly bizarre, ‘radical cheerleaders’-over-feedback intro. I guess my thinking was that it’s not the most accessible-sounding song, but the deep, deep rumbling bass (distinct and audible without really being intrusive) and buzzsaw-thin guitars do lend it I think a particularly persuasive charm. Muscular breakdowns, and gruff vocals over gentle melody; it’s the essence of HWM post-hardcore for me. Honestly - and I guess this comes with the territory of being my favourite band - I can’t conceive of how anybody can’t like, or love, them.

My formal knowledge of music isn’t very good, but the thought occurs to me - isn’t the rhythm of this song a lot closer that of a pop-punk song than a hardcore one (I understand why it’s slower than the latter; but it seems faster than other songs on the album)

(Source: Spotify)

hot water music punk post-hardcore
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Permalink punk post-hardcore pop-punk iron chic hot water music bouncing souls
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Nov 11

Hot Water Music - ‘Moments Pass’ (originally from the Moonpies for Misfits EP, which I wrote about at length here)

"lets dance while we still can these days are numbered short we can watch moments pass or we can see them as our last and take them for all they’re worth so lets dance while we can throw caution to the wind and roll on full force until drained so that burn remains through worst of times and not wait for another day or for the perfect day to up and rise we never know what new days take so why waste all the hours to grow with those we know and i’m asking why we waste time alone when we should know to roll on full force and take advantage of these days that shape our lives and not wait for another day just because we have not enough time to roll on full force till drained so that burn remains through worst of times and not wait another day or for the perfect day to up and rise off my ass out my front door and up to yours to sit down with a fucking cup of coffee and shoot the shit"

(Source: Spotify)

hot water music post-hardcore
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Mar 05

Hot Water Music - ‘Call It Trashing’ from A Flight and a Crash (2001)

Something react with a shake and a bang to resurrect a dead beat, rhythm of a slant and a pose of chivalry that’s far from its best, so over-rated, so bits and pieces, accelerated, and so deceiving … Wait, it’s all sounding the same. Rehashed beats and break downs, surround and take the diversity away and make it all feel stale and vacant. Wait, it’s all sounding the same. It’s all charades and shadows. Call it trashing”

My #1 favourite album and my favourite-sounding record. Oddly enough, it sounded impenetrable and ungraspable when I heard it first. I obviously liked something about it enough to stick with it, though, and when I read along to the lyrics it opened up the sound for me. I think it was one of the first albums where I started to hear bass guitar a separate sound within the songs, not just as intro - particularly since it has such a wonderful guttural quality here.

It all just seems to have such a perfect balance: as I hear it, the guitars chime with the high end of the drums and cymbals, the vocals are typically throaty but don’t overwhelm the mix and sit comfortably in the middle, while the bass rumbles alongside everything else. I guess that might have been the cause of my initial difficulty: everything being on the same level, so that it takes a bit of close listening to ‘unlock’ the sound and unfold its structure. The loudness can be a bit fatiguing - less so I think on vinyl, or through headphones with competing sounds? - but conversely if you can immerse yourself within it it becomes very rewarding. 

I can’t proselytise enough about the sound of this album and the quality of music in it, but the strange thing is that I think the follow-up, while having similar songs, sounds terrible. A Flight and a Crash was the first of three albums Hot Water Music released for Epitaph Records, all produced and recorded at Salad Days studios in Baltimore by Brian McTernanCaution has an extremely noticeable thin drum sound, that I’ve seen described as “plastic bucket syndrome”. It’s not completely absent from A Flight and a Crash, but it ruins the later album for me (or at least, although it has some very good songs on it, I rarely want to listen to it specifically). The New What Next has a similar enough drum sound too, but it matches it with quite compressed-sounding guitar so it adds to the experimental feel of that album, which works.

In the other direction, the album immediately preceding A Flight and a Crash is the Walter Schreifels-produced No Division which has a solid if unspectacular hardcore sound, with rolling drums and buzzing distortion, that perfectly suits the musical intent. Before that, the band recorded with Steve Heritage, a relationship which Eric Grubbs in his POST oral history of post-hardcore recounts as ending somewhat tensely with Forever and Counting - a record I always really liked the sound of it, so it surprised me that the band didn’t, although the explanation might be more to do with context:

"I just think it sounds like dogshit," [Jason] Black says. [Chris] Wollard insists the songs sounded great in the studio, but when they got the record, they didn’t like the way it sounded, especially with its limp bass sound. "To us, it sounds fuckin’ horrible, and it’s probably because of the bad taste in our mouth," Wollard says.

I think it definitely has some of the same thinness in the drums as Caution, and I guess consequently a lot of heaviness in the mid-range, but for me that always worked because of how stretched-out the album’s songs feel, particularly in the guitars. But go back to their classic Fuel For The Hate Game, and the balance of A Flight and a Crash re-emerges albeit with a lower sonic fidelity (everything fuzzes, and the bass, instead of a guttural rumble, sounds like it could almost be played on a keyboard - but that’s punk authenticity for ya). For a band that get criticised for sounding the same a lot, I hear a good deal of (admittedly subtle and probably interpretative on my part) variety in their discography.

(Source: Spotify)

hot water music Perfecting Sound Forever 00s post-hardcore 90s
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Feb 27

Chuck Ragan - ‘The Fire, the Steel, the Tread’ from his soundtrack to It’s Better in the Wind, a short film about motorcycle riding. It’s a version of song that Hot Water Music released as an eponymous EP, and although I haven’t been particularly bowled over by Chuck Ragan’s solo/acoustic stuff, I like this - it’s a pleasingly sparse, yet spacious, take on the Springsteenian sound that seems to have swept through American pop-punkers in the past few years.

(Source: Spotify)

hot water music punk springsteen chuck ragan
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Jun 04

so I’m listening to the new Hot Water Music album,

Exister, and (though technically this could just be my current mood) it’s pretty depressing?

Both lyrically (“Or are we emptiness/are we dead to this/when will it all end?’… “Our state of grace is gone” … “We drown in it/still hopeful/a little bit”) and visually (the album cover and lyric sheet are a muddy-brown-on-black with little other distinguishing features), while the music itself is pretty banal - Caution with somewhat warmer recording, The New What Next with the experimentation toned down, echoing all the while and faintly with the sound of all the earlier albums - though not without some moments of engagement.

It seems their current fans are lapping it up, presumably as vaguely emotional post-hardcore, even if critic-punks are sceptical. I think I can find more to love in it than Heller does, but there remains the fact that it’s an album called Exister from a band that’s, well, been around and releasing for a while, and right now it feels like it could be a concept album called Ennui in the form of an ageing post-hardcore band mired in depression and documenting their feelings of despondency on record in the dull irony of weakly cathartic punk rock notably uninspired by the glories of their previous work, but holding up a functional and workaday mirror to their signature style. Y’know, an entire album that just said ‘this is as good as it gets, sometimes’? Or again, that could just be my current mood.

hot water music post-hardcore punk
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Mar 20

What is your favourite album cover?


Use the photo reply. Or reblog.

My favourite album cover is not only that of my favourite album, A Flight and a Crash, but my favourite album covers are all those of the same band, Hot Water Music, and done by the same artist, Scott Sinclair. Some examples:

A Flight and a Crash


No Division

Never Ender compilation

Moonpies for Misfits EP

hot water music scott sinclair art post-hardcore punk
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Feb 13

brianmlatimer said: Given the amount of writing you've done on Hot Water Music, I was curious to see if you'd had anything to say about The Draft's 'In A Million Pieces' ? Looking through the archive I couldn't find anything, and while a line of comparison between it and HWM's 'Caution' could be drawn pretty easily, I (for one) am interested in hearing any thoughts you may have on it - provided that the aforementioned similarities didn't leave you unimpressed to the point of dismissal.

I’m afraid that’s kinda the case… except I already see Caution as a quite specific outlier in the HWM oeuvre, which peaks for me with A Flight and a Crash and then dips, but picks up quite considerably with The New What Next, an album I’m quite fond of (possibly because it’s the one record I got to experience on release while already a determined fan of the band). The Draft album isn’t really bad by any means, and arguably sounds better than Caution, but I’ve just never warmed to it. I’m not sure I’m competent of identifying exactly where the difference or differences lie, but being only 3/4 of the full band, I definitely think it lacks the roundedness and multi-layered structure that defines Hot Water Music for me in general, and an album such as The New What Next in particular (given the high production values, the mature writing style, the general air of a band with a lot of achievements behind them). I was told by a friend who picks up these things a lot faster than I do that In A Million Pieces had some very good songs on it, but it never grabbed me the way HWM albums (except for, until recently, Caution) did with their complex appeal.

As it happens, I’ve never had the fortune to see Hot Water Music live, but I did see the Draft and the Bouncing Souls perform as a headliner for one of the first gigs I ever attended in Dublin. The Draft were reasonably impressive - I was only getting the hang of live music then, however -  if alarmingly drunken, so I guess you could say I got a slight taste of the HWM experience, but on that night it was the Bouncing Souls who I was definitely there to see and came away a true believer.

Thanks for the thought-provoking question!

hot water music the draft post-hardcore 00s
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Jan 24

Hot Water Music - ‘Alright for Now’ from Caution (2002)

This is always been my least favourite HWM album, but I’ve just been realising what I’ve always known, that it has a lot of really good songs on it. I’d post the opener ‘Remedy’, but the drum sound really annoys me (it suffers a lot from ‘plastic bucket syndrome’ - as does the whole recording to a degree, but mainly this song) - though equally I was almost going to do it just for the line “I strip the gauze for rational self-analysis”. See, Caution is an especially psychological album; as are all their records, but I think it’s at this stage that that element is most accentuated.

My taxonomy of Hot Water Music albums (after the first, Finding the Rhythms, which is self-explanatory) goes as follows:

  • Fuel For The Hate Game - foundational
  • Forever and Counting - metaphysical
  • No Division - communal
  • A Flight and A Crash - experimental
  • Caution - psychological
  • The New What Next - romantic

and incidentally, that’s not following the titles, which shows they are quite good at naming their records in line with apparent lyrical and music themes.

"How was your weekend?" That is the actual line, I had to check the lyrics to make sure. I’m not in the mood to dissect it any further, to be honest I’m not sure they would even benefit from such an action, but that plaintive, existential response “I’m alright for now” sums up everything that needs to be summed up.

119 plays
00s hot water music mental health post-hardcore punk HFN
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Dec 20

HFN 2011 - 9: GPOYWV edition

the top is my Twitter profile pic, with my favourite album of 2001 (not that I was actually aware of it then) and of all time, Hot Water Music’s A Flight and A Crash; the bottom - posted previously - is of course EMA’s Past Life Martyred Saints, my favourite by far of 2011 and probably up there in my current top 5 of all albums ever. yeah - I went there.

also this is apparently the year of me taking pictures of myself. with vinyl (although not in all cases).

ema hot water music HFN 2011
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