February 11, 2002

Alkaline Trio/Hot Water Music Split EP

Mental freeze.

Time to get out of the house.

What to do?

Beer. I need beer.

So, I hopped in my car and made the long trek out to the liquor store. Instead of going through the time, I thought I'd take the long way. After all, I'm stuck in a mental freeze. I can't think of a damn thing to say about this Alkaline Trio and Hot Water Music EP. I mean, it's nice and all, and I really dig it, but I don't know what to say about it. All I know about either is that Alkaline Trio are from Chicago, hired a good drummer named Mike, who used to play in Smoking Popes, and supposedly he was fired because he was too good, or whose name recognition was making the others uncomfortable or something. All I know about Hot Water Music is they're from Florida, growl when they sing, and have a tendency to get really, really, hairy. The only other common factor I know is that they're beloved by that whole "emo" crowd.

It's a lovely day, so rolling down the windows seems to be a good idea. Driving, with stereo cranking, what to say about this release? I could say things about the first Alkaline Trio song, "Queen of Pain." I think the lead singer dude sounds like Elvis Costello. I like this song. It's got a nice, fast beat to it. It makes me want to drive 70 miles an hour, and then drive faster. Ok, that singer dude kinda has a nasal voice, a little annoying, but I can overlook that. And this song sounds like it is, how do they put it, "radio-friendly?" Yeah, I can buy that. This is slick rock, but it's well-produced, so the "slick" adjective isn't an insult. I totally wince at the line "I'm not much of a jester, but I just poisioned food for you." What does it mean? Am I beyond the scope of the target demo to understand? The other two songs are similar in nature, but don't rock me hard like that first one, though "Rooftops" comes rather close.

Hot Water Music are a bit more perplexing. I know they take their name from a Bukowski. I also seem to think that these guys are a little more "street" than Alkaline Trio; certainly, they're much rougher and harder than Alkaline Trio. Apparently, some of their selections on this EP are covers of Alkaline Trio songs, but I couldn't tell you which ones. I like their singer's voice, too. It's rough, it's harsh, it's livin' the life. And, I swear, if there were to be a Punk Rock Springsteen, he'd be a shoo-in. I really, really like the last song, "Bleeder." It's strummed and acoustic, yet the singer really sounds like he wants to beat the hell out of that guitar. The Hot Water Music stuff isn't bad; it's just different. Still, I'm not sure what to make of this record.

I get to the liquor store, and, wandering around, I realize something. I'm old enough. I'm old enough to vote. I'm old enough to rent, buy, and sell X-rated movies. I'm old enough to go into a bar. I'm old enough to buy beer. I'm old enough to do all those things I never was old enough to do before. It's a totally refreshing realization. I'm old enough. I can walk up and down the aisles without having someone card me. I can buy all the cases of St. Pauli Girl, and nobody will card me, and when they do, I'm flattered. I'm old enough to do all of these things, but for some reason, I can't seem to grasp the point of this record, this little piece of plastic.

I buy a couple of beers, hop in my truck, and make my way back home. I don't wanna come back, because I've got things to do that I don't really want to do, but, in the realization that I'm "old enough," I realize that, yes, I have to come home, I have to do my laundry. I have to do my taxes. I have to buy toilet paper. And, in the cataloging of all of these things that I "have to do," it hits me. What's the purpose of this record? These bands have things to do. They have to rock out. They've come to a point in their lives where making is records is something they do, and it's something they do well. More importantly, I know why the kids dig these guys. When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to be "old enough." I wanted to be thought of as older than I was, and that's why I drank. That's why I smoked. That's why I did a lot of things. It's a youth culture thing that's trying to emulate the grown-up life, but yet remain young at heart. Punk Rock serves that purpose well, even if I don't like it.

So, I raise a toast to you, Alkaline Trio and Hot Water Music. Adulthood may have its moments that totally suck, but, for the most part, it's a great relief to be away from the hassles of being a minor. It's fun to just kick back, rock out, and have a helluva good time in the process. The kids love ya, that's for sure, and, not being one to begrudge a band their success, I congratulate you for that. If you're ever round my way, stop by. We'll hang out. We'll buy some beer. And we won't be carded in the process. Isn't that the greatest?

--Joseph Kyle

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