H2O - FTTW (retro review) (Cover Artwork)


FTTW (retro review) (1999)


H2O’s third full-length,FTTW, was also their last on Epitaph Records. The record was certainly far more energetic and emblematic of the posi-hardcore punk that they honed on their first self-titled full-length than the band’s Epitaph debut, Thicker Than Water. FTTW found the band bringing back the themes that served them so well on earlier releases. An 18-song release, plus a 7 Seconds cover as the hidden track, FTTW was also one of the band’s most prolific releases.

The opening song, “Faster Than the World,” helped grab listeners with fast-paced verse riffs and sing-along choruses. The song was as much a tour itinerary as it was a frenetic sing-along, crescendoing with guest vocals by Roger from Agnostic Front and Tim from Rancid amongst others. The song set the pace for the entire record, and immediately drew the listener back to the H2O sound that bridged the punk and hardcore genres.

“One Life, One Chance,” the record’s third song, was to become one of the band’s most celebrated in their vast catalogue. Toby’s lyrical content brought forward themes about perseverance and destiny in such a way that perfectly complemented the mid-tempo catchiness of the song’s music. The song’s title was to become a defining catch phrase for the band to this day as well, even serving as the title for Toby’s podcast.

Drawing once more on their deep-rooted relationship to the heavier side of the hardcore punk underground, “Guilty by Association” was yet another track from FTTW that was to become a celebrated mainstay in their catalogue. Anchored by the powerful cameo by Freddy Madball, the song incorporated elements of the hardcore sound made palatable by H2O’s trademark melody. The bass lines had the darker intonation of heavier hardcore acts here, but they were balanced by Toby’s singing and the tightly wound verses. From a live performance standpoint, this too was to become a crowd favorite, especially when Freddy was present to sing his vocal part.

From a thematic perspective, “EZ.2B Anti” was one of H2O’s best songs in their catalogue. The 14th song on FTTW, the track was everything that defined H2O. The song was melodic but just heavy enough, it was fast as all get out, the lyrical content confronted the close-mindedness that plagued the hardcore punk underground, and it even offered a mosh-ready breakdown. And of course the brief but powerful guest vocals from Gorilla Biscuits’s Civ was simply icing on the cake here.

In many ways, FTTW was the last we’d get from the truly hardcore punk version of H20 for some time. Their soirée with the major label game was what it was. But what it wasn’t was the H20 that we got on FTTW, or their first full-length. The guest vocals on this record read like a who’s who of the punk hardcore underground and there will always be something romantic about that. FTTW was, and remains, an enduring release for the band because of its cohesion, its marriage of melody and aggression, and its many great songs that H20 plays to this day.