Hot Water Music- Vows (Album Review)

May 13, 2024


Share This Review


Connect with Hot Water Music


Listen to Hot Water Music

Hot Water Music turns thirty this year, and rather than just focusing on their past discography and playing live shows of just the hits the veteran punk/post hardcore band continues to give us new music.  Vows follows 2022’s Feel the Void and features a star-studded list of guest contributors, but unlike other albums that have had a slew of guest spots the focus still remains on the core of Hot Water Music.  This time around they’ve opted for songwriting that falls somewhere between mid-tempo and fast paced, with an emphasis on warmer tones and booming melodic hooks.  Whether this lands for you may depend on whether you like this side of their sound or prefer the more urgent and grittier moments, but those that enjoy the latter will find that Vows has just as much staying power as anything else in the band’s discography.

There isn’t anything on Vows that is a huge leap from what Hot Water Music has done before, but they continue to deliver hooks that draw you in during that first listen and stick with you over time.  Opener “Menace” gives you a good idea of where the album is headed, as it comes in with a big lead riff and bouncier tempo and opens into a huge melodic chorus.  Tracks like “Burn Forever” showcase a similar approach, with the verses capturing a bit more of post hardcore’s angular feel while the chorus is huge and immediately infectious.  You’ll still find the right amount of punk and post hardcore grit and energy present in the writing, but the overall atmosphere is much warmer and the hooks have more of an alternative rock vibe at certain points.  Vows definitely comes across as mellower when compared to its predecessor, but I personally found many of the songs got stuck in my head and even though a few of them are constructed in a similar fashion there was plenty worth returning to.  Whether it’s the bounciness and catchy rhythms of “Remnants”, the chunkier guitar work on “Chewing on Broken Glass”, or even the introspective melodies of “Bury Us All” the material consistently has something from beginning to end to catch your attention.  It’s also worth mentioning that Thrice’s Teppei Teranishi contributes keyboards on “Fences” while The Interrupter’s Kevin Bivona serves that role on “Much Love”, but the keyboard work stands out a lot more on the former than the latter.

Considering Hot Water Music has three vocalists since Chris Cresswell became an official member, you’re likely go into Vows wondering how the sheer amount of guests fit in and if their performances overshadow the band themselves.  This isn’t the case though, as not only do you get great performances from Chuck Ragan, Chris Wollard, and Chris Cresswell but the guests integrate in seamlessly and contribute some additional texture rather than truly stealing the spotlight.  “Remnants” is a great example of this, as Turnstile’s Brendan Yates harmonizes well with the rest of the band while bandmate Daniel Fang contributes some of the additional percussion, while other tracks utilize all Thrice and The Interrupters.  One of my personal favorite guest spots comes courtesy of Farside’s Popeye Vogelsang, who contributes spoken word to “Wildfire”, giving it a different feel than the other songs on Vows.  Admittedly Ragan, Wollard, and Cresswell have such powerful voices that the number of guests does seem unnecessary, especially considering how muted some of the performances are, but it’s still fun to hear a lot of artists who took inspiration from Hot Water Music have the opportunity to join in.  

A few of the songs follow patterns that are just a bit too similar, but Hot Water Music’s latest full length clicked with me right from the start and the strong hooks have kept me coming back.  It’s a bit mellower and alternative rock leaning while still retaining some of that post hardcore and punk grit the band is known for, but if you’ve enjoyed those elements of the band in the past this album should prove to be just as memorable.  Thirty years in Hot Water Music hardly has anything to prove, but they continue to deliver great new music and that’s something to be celebrated.  Vows is available from Equal Vision Records and End Hits Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg