Original release date: May 27th, 2008
Seven years after their last full-length album, New York’s H2O finally have a new record, and it finds them continuing to deliver the positive, melodic hardcore they began playing in 1995, minus the overtly pop inflections that weakened 2001’s Go in the eyes of some.
The album kicks off strongly with 1995. This song has it all: aggressively catchy guitars, racing drums and addictive gang vocals backing up just about every second line that comes from Toby Morse’s mouth. The rest of the album follows suit, amping up on some tracks and mellowing just a touch on Sunday. However, despite the strength of the songs, the album missteps with the overuse of spoken soundbites between almost every track. These interludes quickly wear thin and sap the repeat listening quality of an otherwise fine album.
Maintaining the band’s posi-core attitude, the uplifting lyrics generally look on the bright side – on Fairweather Friend, Morse focuses more on love for his true friends than hate for a fake, while Sunday balances the loss of Morse’s father with the gift of his son. Most of the lyrics are equally personal, from the straight edge affirmations of Still Here to the powerful love song Unconditional. Tough guys have feelings too, as Heart On My Sleeve makes clear, pleading for people to look past the singer’s tattoos before passing judgement.
After such a long absence from the studio, the record is understandably a celebration, and a whole bunch of hardcore legends join the party to provide guest vocals, including Roger Miret on Nothing To Prove, Freddy Cricien on A Thin Line, Civ on Still Here, and Kevin Seconds on Fairweather Friend. In this company, Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio could seem an unexpected choice to grace anthemic final track What Happened? (which also features Lou Koller of Sick Of It All) but it may nonetheless be the best song (it’s hard to choose) from a strong return.