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Reviews:Hot Water Music sounds an awful lot like Bad Religion did during the "lostdecade" of the 1990s, when the departure of guitarist Brett Gurewitz emasculatedthe group's sound and Greg Graffin and the rest buckled under the pressureto produce a worthy follow-up to No Control. The fact that Bad Religion'sstill on the road to recovery some 10-12 years later doesn't bode too wellfor this Gainesville, Florida quartet, especially considering that they'recut from the same obstinate, uncompromising stock. Still, credit Hot Water Musicfor taking note of its sage labelmates' hardships and disappointments.You could hear the group attempting to distance itself from its seminal-in-some-circles1998 record Fuel for the Hate Game on its last Epitaph release, and they'vemade even greater strides in refining their sound on Caution.
As its title suggests, it's a thoughtful, plaintive, expressive and obviouslypremeditated effort: there's just enough of the noisy, throaty stuff (i.e.the sound that made HWM seem like the second coming of Avail) to prove thatthe quartet hasn't, like, sold its soul to Satan for pocket change. Emo-friendlyproducer Brian McTernan's work here is a wash: he gives the record a bitof zip, but he always does better with unpacking big sounds than adding additionaltextures. Despite McTernan's best efforts, the band sounds like it'sstruggling against itself: the Van Halen riff on "It's All Related"seems completely disingenuous when compared with the truly balls-out rocker("The Sense") that follows it. And that's exactly why Cautionis the sort of record that inspires fence sitting: it's solid, but unremarkable,and how you respond to the songs on an emotional level may have greater resonancethan anything you actually hear on the record.