The Fire, The Steel, The Tread / Adds Up To Nothing EPNo Idea Records
By Dustin Blumhagen
Hot Water Music fans have been impatiently waiting for a new full length since 2004. In the meantime, the band have made occasional live appearances and released a variety of EPs and splits to keep listeners’ interest from waning. The extended absence of the band doesn’t signal laziness on their part. Chuck Ragan has become a solo artist whose folk songs have arguably found a larger audience than his full time band, while the other members have pursued classic punk rock sounds as The Draft. The success of both of these side projects begs the question of what the band’s future full length will sound.
If this EP is an accurate representation of what a new Hot Water Music album will sound like, then it will sound like… Chuck Ragan and The Draft. The A Side of the 7” is called The Fire, The Steel, The Tread. This song features Ragan on vocals, with sparse electric guitar accompaniment. It is slightly fuller sounding than his acoustic folk solo songs, but it is more like that than previous Hot Water Musicreleases. Think of it as a blend of Justin Sane’s solo songs, classic Bruce Springsteen structure with Ragan’s easily identifiable voice taking the lead. This is a catchy tune that will appeal to fans of his solo work. On the flip side, Up To Nothing sounds more like an unreleased song from The Draft. This time Chris Wollard takes vocal duties on a faster tempo punk rock song. While once again veering away from expectations, this song also works well.
These two songs will definitely polarize listeners. Those who are holding out for a triumphant return to the post hardcore sound of their early days will be sorely disappointed, especially if these songs are an accurate preview of sounds to come. But those who approach them with an open mind will find two strong rock songs with gravel throated vocals made for campfire sing-along’s.