Album Review: Hot Water Music - Light It Up

Written by Daniel Rourke

Hot Water Music remain one of the staple names within the punk scene, so of course, the announcement of their first studio album in five years was met with both excitement and vitriol earlier this year.

With the release of 'Light It Up' now looming, it’s safe to say that fans both old and new will find something to latch onto and call their own. Straight from the rattling drums of album opener, Complicated, it’s clear that Chuck Ragan and co. are on a mission to please with this record.

Time has moved on since Hot Water Music last took to the studio, the punk scene has changed around them, as has the world. It’s a notion that becomes evident in title track, Light It Up, as the band launch into a frantic, unforgiving two minutes before dialing things back with Show Your Face.

Lead single Never Going Back shortly follows and proves to be the first real Trusty Chords moment of the album, as hook after hook is thrown at the listener whilst an underdog tale unwinds: “If you rest / you rust / find your ground and follow the light.

If there’s one thing that starts to become clear at this point, it’s that 'Light It Up' is an album that is angry with the world, it wants the dreamers to stop dreaming and take action, it wants you to realise self-worth and the importance of everyone around you.

Sympathizer and Vultures see the notion of anger put into action, as the prior launches a full scale attack on America’s political climate, with numerous jibes at the farcical Donald Trump: “Can’t build a wall if we don’t want to.”

However, it’s in Bury Your Idols in which Hot Water Music truly shine. The three minute romp opens with a Springsteen like call to arms: “Wake up distant dreamer / time won’t wait for you” – it’s a line which sums up the record perfectly, with Ragan calling for people to push on, and become what they want to become without waiting for the signal to do so.

From there on out the album winds down nicely, as Overload finds itself caught between a sound reminiscent of The Clash and Red City Radio, High Class Catastrophe brings the pace down to magnify the fight in the band, before Take You Home closes the album out with reassuring cries that you’re not alone.

While the selling point of 'Light It Up' seems to be that it’s the first Hot Water Music album to be self-produced by the band since their debut, twenty years ago, to see the record as just that would be baffling. While it is nice to see the band return to their roots and do what they want to do, there’s much more to be found in the songs that make up the record and the tales that unwind.