Hot Water Music – ‘Feel The Void’

By Tom Walsh

Nothing makes you feel old like your beloved bands celebrating anniversaries. When Hot Water Music passed over their 25th year in 2019, it’s one of those moments that transport you back to those sweat-filled basement clubs that are now sadly no more, before catapulting you into the present to realise you’re in your 30s and still pounding ‘A Flight and a Crash’.

For the Gainesville veterans, passing over this milestone makes them relative pups when placed against the likes of Bad Religion (40th anniversary in 2020) and Social Distortion (45th anniversary in 2023), but it is a career that has taken its toll. Guitarist Chris Wollard has taken a step back from touring since 2017 in order to prioritise his health, his shoes filled by The Flatliners’ frontman Chris Creswell.

While Wollard is a notable absence on stage, his influence and signature vocals penetrate throughout the band’s ninth album ‘Feel The Void’ – their first LP in five years. It marks the first studio work with Cresswell as a full-time member of the band – he contributed back-up vocals to the 2019 EP ‘Shake Up The Shadows’ – and, even after over 25 years as a band, Hot Water Music have still got it.

‘Feel The Void’ will give that gut punch of nostalgia for long-time fans with the band reuniting with producer Brian McTernan who helped craft the sound of ‘A Flight and a Crash’, 2002’s ‘Caution’ and 2004’s ‘The New What Next’. For newer fans, they’ll be introduced to the raspy lyrics of Wollard and Chuck Ragan, and the raw emotion that bleeds through every song.

Ragan describes the record as one of perseverance, defiance and hope, and this sentiment permeates through so many of the tracks. The sultry, slow-pulse of ‘Ride High’ is devastatingly heartbreaking while ‘Hearts Stay Full’ is the typical anthemic track Hot Water Music have as their calling card. Ragan and Wollard’s vocals intertwine effortlessly, each one carrying that undercurrent of pain.

A true highlight of the record is ‘Habitual’, a track in which Ragan tackles the grief and struggle of relatives and friends battling cancer. In what he describes as one of the most personal songs he’s written in years, he speaks of the desire to keep fighting even when faced with one of the toughest things any person can endure. It’s delivered in defiant screams as Ragan delivers the opening line of the chorus “I hope you die” – in reference to the cancer – providing an intensely powerful moment in the record.

There are, of course, classic Hot Water Music moments such as the skate punk-esque ‘Collect Your Things and Run’, the grooving ‘Newtown Scraper’ and the straight-up thrash of ‘Scratch On’. Cresswell even takes the lead vocals on ‘Turn The Dial’ which provides another welcoming voice on the record.

The anniversaries may have passed and, yes, we’re all feeling a little old that all our favourite bands are celebrating these kinds of milestones, but if they keep on cranking out records like ‘Feel The Void’, we can take that.

TOM WALSH

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