5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 17 May 2012
I've long been a big fan of Hot Water Music and was gutted when they called it a day back in 2006. I had also been disappointed with their last album. 2004's "The New What Next" had some hooks but it felt a bit Hot-Water-Music-by-numbers and didn't really sound like a band at the top of their game. It certainly added nothing to the mighty legacy of "Caution", "Flight and a Crash" and, my personal favourite, "No Division". Talk of them playing together again and of live shows were encouraging, but I was waiting for new material to see whether they are force to be reckoned with and they really stepped up to the mark with "Exister". I tried to be unconvinced so as not just to be wowed by anything from a favourite band, but the songs grabbed a hold of me and pulled me along until I completely submitted to the flow of the album. And when it finished it went right back on again. There is everything you might expect from a HWM album - dense guitars, driving drums, mind-blowing bass, and vocals sounding like they are sung by a couple of bears - and hooks galore, but what makes this stand out is the passion and the sense of urgency that reigns throughout. This is not a band punching their timecards after years of rehearsing the same tunes and the same moves, but it's a bunch of guys with their heart's bursting in their chests as they give it all. Despite having listened to their previous albums so many times and seen them live I still have this odd mental block that means I struggle to work out exactly which singer is which on which track (for shame!) and which is Wollard and which is Ragan, but (if it even matters) I think it is Ragan who has the even more gravelly of the two voices and here he is on top phlegm-gurgling form. A few years with his folk/country/however-it-should-be-categorised solo act have added even more soulfulness and grit to his vocals. At times he almost sounds like he is drifting into bluesy rock power ballad territory, but place that in the context of the HWM sound and it is a real winner. In particular, when he hits the chorus on "Drag My Body" or "Paid in Full" it just lifts everything to a new level - it does what great music is supposed to do.
Maybe you'd have to like punk rock (with a certain emphasis on the rock) to really enjoy this, but I happen to and think this is a superb album. The lyrical content runs the risk of cliché at times, but in the hands of HWM it all works. This band have always been about expressing the pain and shouting about overcoming it, they have albums worth of material on sinewy transcendence through strength and willpower - but each time it feels new and heartfelt. And that is what makes this collection of songs stand out and what makes HWM so much better from the hundreds of pretenders out there who profess deep feelings and raise their fists in the air, ticking all of the boxes of performance. These guys really mean it and lay themselves open through their music. Or at the very least they are more convincing actors! "Exister" is a very enjoyable listen and is hopefully just a first step in the rejuvenation of a very good band.