Wednesday, May 21, 2008
H2O: Nothing to Prove - Review
It's been 7 years since NYC melodic hardcore heroes H2o have released an album. During that time, most of us had written them off, but no, they're making a comeback (wait, don't call it a comeback, thats too easy - official website) In anticipation of this release i've been listening to all of the previous releases, H2O, Thicker Than Water, and F.T.T.W . I even downloaded GO! and gave it about a 10 minute listen before i got really disappointed.
This new album Nothing To Prove has some great points. The music is totally a throwback to the early records, fast, simple, and each song is about 2 minutes or less (unlike the pop songs on GO! that are 4-5 minutes). The production quality fits right in with the hardcore sound, and Toby's voice is back to normal after the ridiculously high-pitch that MCA recorded him at.
Well, thats the good stuff, now for the bad.
These lyrics are, according to the H2O homepage, "up front and honest as he's (Toby) ever been". Well i think that creates a little bit of a problem then. H2O ride on the image of "positive hardcore", we (punkers) all know this, they don't have to shove it in our face. this album is all about proving their credibility. Apparently Toby has been judged, accused, and the world is against him, and he doesn't like it. The lyrics are easily the weakest part of the album, enough so to make it an album that i won't be coming back to.
The first track, 1995, talks about how he thought that "hardcore was the only thing for me" but now "he's coming home that's where i want to be". So in this song he admits that he thought that the hardcore scene was the only place he wanted to be, but now "home" is the place for him. the song is good, nothing great.
the next track Nothing to Prove is the best track on the album. Good chorus sing along and lyrics that aren't totally lame, though he does sing at one point: "you know us, and what we achieved from the streets of LES (lower east side) to your TV". I don't remember H2O being a big presence on my TV, but whatever, no big deal. the other song i really like is Fairweather Friend. With help from Sick of it All's lead singer Lou, this track is a great all around track.
the track Sunday really bothers me. not that its a personal song about Toby's son being born, and his father passing away and the startling coincidence that they both happened on a Sunday (1 in 7 chance of that happening!). The thing that bothers me is the placement in the track-order. you usually reserve your best stuff for tracks 3 and 4, and this song is basically filler. it loses the momentum the album is trying to find.
From here we run into a few more songs about how the scene today isn't what it used to be, apparently referring to early-mid 90's. Thin Line talks about people acting fake, acting being the key word here. Heart On My Sleeve talks about the abuse Toby takes for having tattoo's, apparently people walk on the other side of the street "because i wear my heart on my sleeve".
Still Here is another song that bothers me a lot, as does What Happened. H2O always wants to talk about how "positive" they are but then they stand on their hardcore soapbox and put everyone in their place. Still Here starts off "straight-edge before your were born" so you know instantly that this song is all about how Toby is the most hardcore straight-edge punker to ever live and we aren't cool enough to be in his league. What Happened is a song about how today's music is about "the image and not the art", claiming that bands these days don't put in hard work. whatever Toby, like all the hard work and art you put out after signing with MCA in the last 10 years?
Everything is good on this album, the music and sound goes back to the good old days, and the melody lines that Toby comes up with are very catchy and easy to sing along with. Despite the 50 million audio clips of credible hardcore dudes promoting the band throughout the album to justify H2o, and the weak lyrics that according to the review on their web pagevu Toby really poured into, this album might be worth a spin. I'm glad H2O is back in the game, hopefully their next album will be better though.