When your band name comes from a Charles Bukowski collection of short stories, you are setting up a precedent. ‘
Bukowski was known for writing about the down-and-outs, bar flys, prostitutes, and general social misfits. Luckily, Hot Water Music have lived up to their name for the past 20-plus years. On their new EP, Shake Up the Shadows, they deliver another solid collection of songs and stories that lives up to their name and legacy, but vintage Hot Water Music this is not.
On Shake Up the Shadows, vocalist Chuck Ragan is on top form, delivering the kind of vocals that only he can. He sounds world-weary and tired, but he hasn’t given up. Musically Ragan is backed by huge riffs and a tight rhythm section. This is evident in “Rebellion Story” and “By Any Means,” the strongest tracks on the EP. Here the band sounds confident and like they’re having a blast. And why shouldn’t they? After 20 years in the game, they are a safe pair of hands and know what is expected of them from their fan base.
Shake Up the Shadows is a solid EP of songs, but at times it does feel like Hot Water Music are playing it safe and ticking boxes. Catchy riffs. Check. Sing-a-long chorus. Check. Killer solo. Check. Massive drum fills. Check. While there is nothing wrong with this, and given that the band has been going since 1993, you can forgive them for slightly phoning this one in, but Shake Up the Shadows could have been a bombastic listen, like their previous releases, that invigorated not only the genre, but the listener. Instead, we have something that works, but feels a little flat.