When Hot Water Music went on "indefinite hiatus" after releasing the absolutely brilliant album "The New What Next", I was crushed. We all know what that means. It means the band hasn't decided if they are breaking up or not. Which usually means that they are...no one goes on "indefinite hiatus" and then comes back. Doesn't work.
So when "In A Million Pieces" finally dropped, I knew it was the last toll of the death bell for HWM. And I wanted to hate it. How dare they! Scurrilous knaves! Chuck is at home with his wife and you guys are back at it!?
So I put it off. I waited. I didn't want to hear the "new Hot Water Music". I caught The Draft playing at The Fest in Gainesville, and the show was great. Everyone was in top form, JB's basslines echoing a thousand Cure songs without ever ripping one off, George beating his kit like it owed him money, newcomer Todd Rockhill sounding every bit the Southern boy he was born, and Chris standing at the front of the stage like he was born to be there, bantering with the audience, calling us all "turkeys", and swinging around his Tele like it was a snake trying to get away from him.
And still, I waited.
Hot Water Music was always a live band. No matter how good the albums were, they always outdid themselves live. Most bands being the exact opposite, it was a rare and beautiful thing.
So I waited.
Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. What the hell? Why was I so resistant to this? No Idea Records announced the early release of the album on vinyl, I Paypal'd my money right over, and it was at my house in a week.
Three days, mind you, after the needle on my turntable died a brief and ignoble death.
So I sat and stared at the album I had finally accepted in my heart as the future, and realized I couldn't even listen to the damn thing.
Off to buy it AGAIN, as a collection of those delightful little industry hobgoblins known as "mp3's", and I was finally in business.
I settled in with a Diet Pepsi, a pack of cigarettes, my good headphones, and strict instructions that I was to be left alone for 36.8 minutes. No wife, no kids, no dogs, no phone, nothing.
And damned if this isn't the best album these boys have put out to date. I mean, I miss Chuck. I love the guy. But he's doing his thing, and the rest of the guys are doing theirs, and so it goes.
You can hear a clear and palpable shift with "In A Million Pieces", as the absence of Chuck's songwriting contributions force Chris Wollard to step up his efforts. He doesn't disappoint, but this album finds him moving the band in a lot of different directions...most noticeably with far more Beatles-esque pop influence in a lot of the songs.
It's not better than Hot Water Music. It's not worse. It's really simply a completely different beast. From the triumphant intro of "New Eyes Open" to the slinky synth line in the back of "Bordering" to the 80's punk/new wave intro for "Longshot", The Draft are letting their influences show through more heavily. Hell, you can almost hear Chris throwing in some (c)rows licks here and there!
It's not Hot Water Music. But our boys from Gainesville have damn sure created something that is greater than the sum of its parts. "In A Million Pieces" stomps, swaggers, slinks and shuffles towards something just out of reach, an idea that you know is going to keep them moving forward for a long time.
And we get to reap the benefits.