Hot Cross has always seemed to be a band in transition. Not in a bad way though, but more in a way that they're never content with being "good." Never content with rehashing old songs, with doing what their contemporaries are doing. It's for that reason that the band has always had a leg up on those very same contemporaries. Everyone talks about Fair Trades and Farewells, Cryonics, and A New Set of Lungs, and rightfully so, but one of their releases always seems to be overlooked. That release is their 2003 split with Level Plan alum Light the Fuse and Run.
This is undoubtedly one of my favorite splits of all time, started off conveniently enough by my favorite Hot Cross track, "The Eye Is a Tricky Machine." The song displays everything about the band's songwriting prowess that subsequent releases have continued to expand on. After a short clean guitar intro, Werner and company begin to fire on all cylinders, with clean and distorted guitars sharply contrasting, yet seamlessly blending. After going back and forth between the quiet and chaotic sections, the music stops for Billy to yell "all wrapped up in star or stripes, or left to awful dreams inside my head!" The song then cascades through various rhythm changes and squalling guitar effects while Werner wails effortlessly above it all. The song is truly a great representation of what Hot Cross is all about, and the next song does not let up either.
Even though it's a much more straight-forward track, "In Memory of Movern" still has its subtle nuances, interesting chord progressions, and clean parts to keep things interesting. Hot Cross are not a band to sit around and be complacent with writing a song that's a retread of something they've done before, or something that won't impress the listener. After the repetition of "A calendar, has less time than I do," the band explodes, and things just keep picking up in intensity from there on out. But that's only half the split.
Light the Fuse and Run offer two songs not to be forgotten.
Opening with the proclamation "We can / light the fuse and run!," the hardcore track with rockân'roll style and rhythm keeps up the intensity that Hot Cross so feverishly established. The track is far less chaotic, but maintains the same sort of urgency held in both Hot Cross' vocals and instrumentation. This is heartfelt, melodic hardcore done right. The song features some solid gang vocals towards the end as things pick up more and more steam as they careen towards the finish line. "Instrumenttwo," in a stark contrast from the rock previously brought, offers a slow dream beat accentuated by some country twang-sounding guitar, slowly plodding along through the entire somber duration. The weakest song on the split, but hey, that's not saying much.
Whether you get this split on CD or the 7", you are bound to be more than impressed. Billy Werner of Hot Cross has always been the consummate lyricist, and his own words contradict the path his band has taken over the few years they've been around for.
Look ahead with forward eyes, and it all stood still for us. It's either that or run and hide / So still in fact, that our planted feet coasted back.Despite those words, Hot Cross has never been a band to stay still, and though their latest material has progressed far past this split, you have to know where you came from to know where you're going.