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.


Anonymous said...

you're definitely spot on with your review, as painful as it is to say. h2o has been everything to me for the last 12 years (even after having to digest go!), and this just wasn't what i was anticipating after hearing all the commotion about how this was going to be a revival of '95. decent album, but i agree entirely with what you said about both the lyrics and the audio clips. the audio clips were just too much for me, and i'm not sure i could even put this into my cd player without it having a condensed version without them... what's worse is that even without those, we're left with a ~20 minute full length.

BMer916 said...

i didn't even think about the fact that if you eliminated all of the sound clips, you'd be left with only 20 minutes of music. Toby is all over the place in interviews saying how much effort they put into this record, calling it their best ever, yet they could only produce 10 songs in a 7 year layoff? that's pretty weak if you ask me.

Belentani said...

dude, you gotta see that this album is not for new listeners, this is for all the old guys who have been listening H2O through all these years.

that´s what I see, and following that line, this album is awesome and what happened is a great song!

PS: forgive me about any mistakes on the text, I´m from Brazil, annd by the way, nice blog.

BMer916 said...

thanks for the comments Belentani, but i disagree. i got Thicker Than Water the week it came out. i've listened to H2O forever, and seen them live numerous times.

this album is nowhere the letdown that GO! was, but it is still disappointing. 7 years for 20 minutes of music?

Complaining about how the scene changes and people sellout is an old and worn out argument, the scene changed and H2O wasn't even around to do anything about it

Dan said...

Man, sure it's old to bitch about what the scene is, has become or issupposed to mean but it's not older than anything else in HC. Bragging bout family, friends and loyalty is old. Talking bout sXe and veganism is old. Breakdowns and gang backups are old.
On the bright this is not only old, it's the core of everything HC is.
So reviewer has no connection to old school HC, hes doesn't like the record, ehatever. But to claim to be an H2O fan and now whine about a 20 min album and that the lyrics are "old", I don"t get it. WTF did you expect?

BMer916 said...

i don't think the lyrics are 'old', i just think they're not creative. what gets me excited about a song that starts off "straight-edge before you were born"? okay, so i'm not as cool as Toby. thanks.

i don't need a record to put me in my place. i like H2O, back in the day i loved them. i guess i was just hoping for more, literally, more music.

maybe i felt like the old stuff, 5 Yr Plan, Empty Pockets, Guilty by Assoc. , Roots, I See It In Us, were all about "us" against the world. i like that. i feel like this record is Toby vs the new scene. meh. i'm only 26 so i guess my connection to "old school HC" is limited, but i'm a fan of H2O despite what anyone says, and i don't need an audio clip to validate me.

YES said...

Everything you have said is true, I loved the new album until I really started listening to the lyrics. The lack of subtlety in the way they proclaim themselves "real" is embarrasing.

He refers to kids trying to fit in with the scene by doing things a certain way and the loss of art for fashio. He then contradicts himself wonderfully referring to himself and other real 'old dudes' as 'just like you but with tattoos' which sounds suspiciously like you have to have tattoos to be hardcore, ergo 'fashion before passion'.

I still shout along to the album but feel angry pretty much the whole way through.

BMer916 said...

Thanks for the comment YES. i agree with you about singing along with the record, now that i've had a few months to listen without being super-critical some of songs are starting to grow on me. i'm seeing them live here in denver next month so i guess we'll see what everyone else thinks of the new songs!

Anonymous said...

Its justifiable to have one or two songs about how bullshit the hardcore scene has become but I do agree that you can't base an entire album around it. I don't know. If I want to hear h20 ill just throw in fttw like always.