'Moments Pass’ from Moonpies for Misfits (EP), No Idea Records 1999.
Choosing A Flight and a Crash as one of the standard bearers of punk rock in the 21st century didn’t go down too well, but by and large I stand by my choice. However, I am a bona fide fan of old school Hot Water Music, and yes, I could see Forever and Counting (vinyl repress in the mail!) as my favourite too, or Fuel for the Hate Game, or No Division. Moonpies for Misfits is a four-song EP that fits, musically, in between Forever and Counting and No Division (it was released on the No Idea label in the same year, 1999, as the latter album was on Some Records).
It may not be the very best HWM record (for that, see above) but it’s still almost perfect in its own way. I found this review on Amazon which sums it up pretty well:
“The little DIY outfit from Gainesville that could. Hot Water Music have kept their integrity intact throughout their rise from Florida emo-core legends to mid-major label rising stars. This EP offers 4 songs from an era when the band was just blooming and realizing the extent of their artistic ability...”
Or, more generally, consult the emo non-bible that is Fourfa, which says (in reference to Finding the Rhythms/Fuel For the Hate Game, which is a few years earlier, but still the old Hot Water Music style):
“Takes the best of the Fuel/Fugazi twin vocal/twin guitar drive and adds a sweaty Avail pop-punk pulse, with scratchy, gruff singing that doesn't need to be beautiful to get the point across. This band positively embarrasses bands with only one singer.”
If you want a great overview of the Hot Water Music sound from Finding the Rhythms up until No Division (and including a brief diversion into the Blacktop Cadence’s Chemistry for Changing Times), head over to Music for the Working Man and download the two podcasts available there. Mostly, he lets the music speak for itself, but adds in some of the story too and - best of all – isn’t afraid to say the word ‘emo’ or ‘emocore’.
’Moments Pass’ opens up Moonpies for Misfits with a relatively unusual, for Hot Water Music, sideswipe of feedback - and then kicks, or rather chugs, into life. Sometimes earlier HWM sounds too dense, too full of weight, to be easily accessible – and this might turn a lot of people off – but what this song demonstrates is the melody suffused into the hardcore drive, a legacy of the ‘emocore’ genre in general and of the album Forever and Counting in particular. ‘Moments Pass’ is a song about seizing life as it comes, or as the liner notes to Live at The Hardback say: “this song is about taking advantage of the time we have with our friends or loved ones now. Mainly because we never know what tomorrow will unfold.”
“and up to yours to sit down for a fucking cup of coffee and shoot the shit.”
‘Another Way’ is one of Hot Water Music’s personal/political songs, like ‘A Clear Line’ from A Flight and a Crash. “Say what’s wrong with this way, beside the fact it’s not in the book you read”. Independence, tolerance, plurality and “no division” are all elements of the Hot Water Music philosophy; but it’s personal too, a way to live one’s own life in co-existence and in community with others, despite all the difficulties inherent in that approach. E pluribus unum, and all that. I’m not sure if I should really mention Obama (again) here, but from what I see the US has immensely polarised politics – compared to a broadly social democratic Europe, at least – and this is something punk hasn’t often helped with. Often with good reason, of course, but I’d much rather see an emergence of Obama (left of-)centrism than a re-run of anti-Reagan (and anti-Bush) punk rock with McCain as presidential hate figure.
"Day by day we all change. Systems change.
So why can’t we accept other ways, in respect
to learn for our own?"
‘Where We Belong’ is a relationship song, a “song as a story of a crucial turning point in two people’s lives. Two people who found a peace through love they thought they would never know and learned how to keep it… from rooftops then, to rooftops now we’ve seen why we’re still here and who we’re both about…” (Live at The Hardback liner notes.) A lot of this song sounds more like Fuel For the Hate Game, a rawer, rougher sound, before it moves into a meandering, melodic passage straight out of Forever and Counting. Climbing and building, ever upward and rhythmically.
“Start now. Start right. Stay strong. Stay tight.
And we can rise side by side."
'Moonpies for Misfits' is another song that tells a story, of change from youthful arrogance/indifference to similar but more mellowed adulthood, still as strong and as forthright but more lastingly so: "face to face here we stand strong, but this time we stand for good". It's the quintessential post-hardcore song, the sound and the attitude from after the heady excesses of punk. Just as heavy - though a slower song than the other three - and fundamentally moving, it also has that profound sense of repose, of position, of difficult calm, that inhabits Hot Water Music's best work.
"...We used used to tear it up reckless.
Moonpies for misfits with no cares.
You got that right, I said.
We're still here.
Scarred, but here.
But, then again, we were invincible then.
We're still here.
Just not like then."
Moonpies for Misfits*
1. Moments Pass
2. Another Way
3. Where We Belong
4. Moonpies for Misfits
Live at the Hardback
5. Moments Pass (live)
6. Where We Belong (live)
* Moonpies, for non (Southeastern?)-Americans, are a trademark type of biscuit (‘cookie’) consisting of two round Graham crackers sandwiching a marshmallow and dipped in chocolate. The English translation of ‘Moonpies for Misfits’ would essentially be ‘Wagon Wheels for Wankers’.
(Click to expand & read liner notes)
A final note on the cover artwork. Just looking at it on the screen now, it's amazing. There are equally good Hot Water Music covers, such as the discombobulated man on A Flight and A Crash or the bellicose mutants on the front of Fuel for the Hate Game. In fact, all their album covers are of superbly high quality - because they are all done by the same artist, Scott Sinclair (SINC, as you can see in the corner.)
It's a pity, because of the high quality, that there isn't much on the internet about Sinclair's work - although he is a professional artist. He has a Myspace and a website in construction (there's nothing there at the moment, other than a damn cool title picture). I remember he used to have a site where one could look at a variety of his work, HWM and non-HWM.
I'm no art critic, but I guess I could describe SINC's style as a sort of modernist, semi-cubist form. Although it has evolved just as much as the band's sound, it has always matched Hot Water Music's vibe: hard edges, muted colours, but a whole lotta feeling and pathos put into the image. 'Moonpies for Misfits' has the one central figure, a man stripped to the waist and apparently carrying a pick-axe. In its stance, it could almost seem like a Socialist Realist tableau - but the figure appears just as skinny and emaciated as it does muscular - more Picasso-like. SINC's artworks, particularly his skeletal, awkard male forms, often put me in mind of Picasso's The Old Guitarist - although it's a Blue Period painting, not (directly) a Cubist one. Either way, there's that sense of physical tragedy, of the conflict between the weaknesses and strengths of the human form.
SINC's figure stands against an abstract background of back-and-forth arrows, all except one bright red arrow painted in muted colours. But they are not so abstract as to be unreal - the figure casts a definite (and harsh) shadow against them. All surfaces exhibit the same coarse painted texture, except for the figure's trousers and the upper block of the image, which are scoured rough, lending the whole a tactile but indistinct feeling. In front of the other elements, white shapes fall from the sky, their identity ambiguous - they could be raindrops, feathers or leaves. Finally, whatever they are, they reflect the same pallid white glow as comes from the bare torso and head of the figure, and the understated but by now emblematic rough lower-case text of 'hot water music' in the upper left.
The link above to 'The Old Guitarist' includes a modernist poem, possibly inspired by the painting, and written by American poet Wallace Stevens, 'The Man with the Blue Guitar'. The first six lines:
"The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.
They said, “You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.”
The man replied, “Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."
I'd like to think that the painting and the poem both reflect something of Hot Water Music. What exactly though, I'm not sure.