Forget the A Flight and a Crash debate which ensued after Hot Water Music signed to Epitaph three and a half years ago. Forget worrying that bands change their sound to please labels, if only for a minute. Since releasing the album that many old fans condemned as a sign of a weaker band, Hot Water Music has been able to put any worry to rest. This is partially in debt to Caution which saw the band re-inventing the urgency many fans missed. It didn't sound the same as No Division or Fuel for the Hate Game, but it successfully reached out to those once alienated listeners.
Now comes The New What Next, the Gainesville quartet's highly anticipated follow-up to Caution. While the album shows that Hot Water Music has grown in the last few years, it shows no sign of aging. There are no grey hairs or wrinkles on TNWN. Instead, it seems as though the band is wiser, a little more traveled, and still able to present said urgent sound. Chris Wollard and Chuck Ragan still have their gruff, whiskey-damaged voices, however it would be nice to see more dual vocals, which are nearly non-existent on TNWN.
There is no song comparable to 'Remedy,' or 'Flight and a Crash,' which kicked their last albums into fast, aggressive starts. Rather, the band focuses on songs a little more like 'I was on a Mountain,' and 'Wayfarer.'
However, the band retains what is probably its greatest strength- inspiring, positive lyrics. In a world of post-breakup lyric books, Hot Water Music manages to keep writing songs about self-empowerment, and passion. In a scene where negativity reigns, it's all too refreshing to hear something positive, something celebratory.
The New What Next isn't a drastic departure from Caution, nor is it likely to be mistaken for any other Hot Water Music album. It should be able to stand in time as a testament to maturity, which is what they might have been striving for with A Flight and a Crash. This album sounds like it is where Hot Water Music should be.