Let’s talk about baseball. If a batter gets three strikes, he’s out. Now let’s talk about the new seven-inch from punk/hardcore act Hell or Highwater.
The very first track of the EP, “D.N.R.” starts off nicely. That sweet nectar known as “the fast beat” flows plentifully in the intro. The vox are snotty, but not too snotty. The guitar snarls and squeals. The lyrics are about a woman so sick that she begs for death, which is a downer, but not as nearly as depressing as the spontaneous screaming emotional hardcore breakdown after the first two verses. Now, breakdowns are cool. Screaming emotional hardcore breakdowns, however, are lame and melodramatic. “D.N.R.” would be a decent punk track without one. And it wouldn’t be…strike one!
Track two, “In or Out” avoids track one’s tragic flaw by exchanging shitty breakdowns for continuously hard rocking metal-tinged riffage. Being a stereotypical punk/hardcore song, it’s not a life-affirmer, but hey, those of us that dig on No Trigger-style stompers will be pleased. Being a good song, it kind of fucks up my baseball metaphor, but since it isn’t really a home run, or even a base hit, I’m gonna label it ball one.
A second strike comes with “More,” the first song on the B side. The lyrics aren’t too spectacular throughout this release, but the band seems to especially have trouble with opening lines, as “I don’t really get into politics” is a groaner. Granted, the song is an indictment of the politically apathetic, but the lack of nuance throughout overwhelms the point. On a theoretical level, I’m glad Hell or Highwater is taking a stand. On a literal word-by-word level, though, “More” is pretty bad.
“Commodity” closes out the seven-inch, and it suffers the same problem as the other songs: lyrics in need of revision. Hell or Highwater’s music isn’t all that bad. There are some reliable beats and meaty riffs here. The vocals/lyrics are the only major drawback, but the two are so lacking that they completely sink this band’s output.
…Oh yeah, strike three.