HOT WATER MUSIC
Hot Water Music has been described as a punk Grand Funk Railroad. That might not hit the mark. Besides a populist, working-class bent and undeniable energy, the Gainesville, Fla., quartet has little in common with Michigan’s ‘70s-era loud-mouthed sons of simplicity. Drawing from the gruff-voiced pop-punk of Jawbreaker and the angular dynamics of Fugazi, Hot Water Music’s template was hardly new when it debuted in 1995, and it isn’t the band’s fault that it provided the blueprint for a legion of disposable emo bands. What HWM brought to the party of ringing guitars and sing-along choruses was lyrical maturity, showcasing the concerns of average Joes trying to get by in an increasingly hardscrabble America. Indeed, when HWM went on extended hiatus in 2005, gravel-toned co-frontman Chuck Ragan took a lengthy alt-folkie sabbatical. Reformed in 2008, HWM still fights the good fight, but Ragan’s troubadour years have ravaged his already grizzled voice. Busy, angst-ridden pop-punk is an odd fit with mature alt-Americana, and though HWM can still fire on all cylinders, too often the music devolves into frantic aimlessness. It may be that with its grown-up concerns, HWM has outgrown the boundaries of its loud and fast genre.