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Hot Water Music – Exister album review

Exister, Hot Water Music’s first studio album release in eight years and first since the band’s hiatus and eventual breakup a year later, finds the group not too far from where they left off with 2004’s The New What Next. However, time away from the studio seems to weigh down the album heavily.

In the opening riffs of “Mainline,” it is perhaps convincing that these punk rockers from Gainesville, Florida, haven’t lost a step; Hot Water Music’s trademark tumbling, spritzy rock sound that made them so appealing to the 90s post-hardcore, punk rock scene shines bright from the get-go. Unfortunately, a thorough run through the album exposes a gradual descent with each song becoming increasingly more predictable and similarly prosaic as the last. By the time “Drown In It” comes along, it is clear that a spark is lacking in the 2012 version of Hot Water Music. < Chuck Ragan's voice, which has always been deeper and raspier than vocalist Chris Wollard's, is now clearly more raspy and at times a bit strained. “Drag my body” is unconvincing in it's attempt to display the band's once powerful and aggressive approach and falls short in providing the complex rhythms that at a time drove the majority of HWM's songs. A small glimmer of hope emerges with the album's title track, which seems to hark back to the bands' original sound. Scrapping the punk-ballads for a song, the band makes a successful attempt to re-create what they have always done best: short, concise, crowd rousing numbers that get to the point and pack a punch. The sound of a band that's built on high powered, intense rhythms can unfortunately- due to the conflux of time; lose steam over the years. Having noted that, Exister is hit and miss. In some songs, there is a forced sense of urgency, yet on other tracks, the band cruises through flawlessly with circa 2000 HWM energy. For dedicated HWM fans, Exister is worth checking out. The album, albeit lackluster at times, has something to say: these musicians have no intention of backing down.

By Travis Sandoval

Life-long Wisconsinite who has recently made a nest for himself in Portland, Oregon. When not quaffing incredible brew and going to every concert he can, he dreams of Green Bay Packer Super Bowl victories and longs for the day of a return visit to Lambeau Field.

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