Hot Water Music - The Fire, The Steel, The Tread / Adds Up to Nothing (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Hot Water Music

The Fire, The Steel, The Tread / Adds Up to Nothing (2011)


In the seven years since the release of The New What Next, the members of Hot Water Music have broken up, started successful solo careers and side projects, joined more popular bands like Against Me! and Senses Fail, gotten back together, played some shows, and signed to one of the last labels anyone would have expected them to. Not counting a B-sides collection, a live 7-inch series, and a recent split with the Bouncing Souls featuring a so-close-to-the-original-why-bother cover of "True Believers", this two-song single represents the first tunes we've heard from them as Hot Water Music since then. The resulting two songs are both of the high quality we've come to expect from the band, but couldn't be more different in sound.

First up is "The Fire, The Steel, The Tread", a re-worked Chuck Ragan solo track that was previously used in the trailer for the Scott Toepfer project It's Better in the Wind. It's a bit curious that they used a previously released song to kick off the band's first original release in seven years, but the band give it a different-enough feel to justify its inclusion. The song retains the folk tinge that adorns most of Ragan's solo work, but the other three-quarters of the band give it a rock 'n' roll edge that would make it stick out like a sore thumb on any of his solo records. Guitar licks, buried in the background and only revealing themselves after repeated listens, give it an almost cinematic feel. It's not hard to imagine this song working well as the soundtrack to a spaghetti western. The word "epic" has become overused to the point of parody in the last few years, but it feels appropriate here.

On the flipside is "Adds Up to Nothing", a much more traditional Hot Water Music song. It doesn't stray far from the sound the band perfected on The New What Next and continued (minus Mr. Ragan) as the Draft. Chris Wollard's voice sounds as great as it ever has, and it's great to hear it over a raging full band again after a few years of more reserved work with his band the Ship Thieves. The song is much hookier and immediate than its A-side, and it almost seems like it would have made more sense to reverse the two.

Hot Water Music have managed to give the fans what they wanted, and experiment at the same time. In these two new songs, they have given us a glimpse of the fact that seven years of their main songwriters playing more acoustic-oriented music has definitely rubbed off on them, and also shown us that despite that, they are still the same band we've come to know and love. This release will grab the attention of anyone who had forgotten about the band in their dormant years, and tie over the die-hards until the release of their next full-length early next year. Welcome back, boys.

The Fire, The Steel, The Tread / Adds Up to Nothing will be released via 7" on August 29.