Album Review :: Hot Water Music – Exister

“…although it feels weird to say, it sounds like a more mature Hot Water Music”

Six years ago, it was announced that Hot Water Music “as we knew it” was over. Though Chuck Ragan never officially drew a line under the band with his statement, many thought they wouldn’t see Hot Water Music again. Sure we got (and continue to get) Chuck’s solo efforts and The Draft and, while that’s all well and good, it just wasn’t the same. Thankfully the hiatus lasted all of two years (which meant yours truly could actually see them live), but still no new material surfaced. Four years after their return, we have a new Hot Water Music record. It’s certainly been worth the wait.

It’s clear that a lot has changed in the band’s time apart and, obviously, there’s going to be some big differences when you’ve not released a record in eight years (The New What Next was released in 2004). However, that’s not to say this has had a negative effect. Far from it. Tracks like ‘State Of Grace’ and ‘Take No Prisoners’ show a clear progression in songwriting, with Chuck Ragan seemingly adapting elements used in his solo material to fit in with Hot Water Music’s repertoire. In turn, this has created a clearer divide between Ragan’s songs and those of Chris Wollard. Whereas Chuck’s songs are more complex, Wollard’s are for the most part, straight forward, no nonsense, punk songs. Though this meant Chuck’s stuck with me more, Wollard’s are sure to become new live anthems for Hot Water Music fans the world over.

Regardless of any lyrical differences, the instrumentation is still well within that familiar Hot Water Music wheelhouse. It’s that fast, hard, punk rock that makes the blood boil and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. That’s not to say, that it doesn’t have it’s more chilled out moments. Grungy and downbeat, ‘No End Left In Sight’ is the perfect example. Though all who’ve worked on this record – especially Bill Stevenson (Descendents/ALL) for his production job – need commending, Jason Black deserves major credit. It’s an understatement to say the man is a fantastic bass player, but on Exister his work really stands out. I mean, just listen to the opening of ‘Drag My Body’. Need I say more? Wollard and Ragan are also on fine form. Their dual vocals on the album’s title track are awe-inspiring, and make it my favorite track on the album.

Still, the question remains, after eight years, was Exister worth the wait? The answer there is a resounding yes. It’s certainly a more progressive record and, although it feels weird to say, it sounds like a more mature Hot Water Music. However, despite the few ‘misses’ contained within these thirteen songs, Exister is a record I have no trouble recommending. It’s clear that their time apart and side projects have made a difference, but everything has worked in their favour. This is most definitely a Hot Water Music record, and fans of their previous work will not be disappointed.

Album Of The Year 2011 :: Cara Moore’s Top 5

The idea that there’s a one true ‘album of the year’ is a pretty misguided one. With that in mind, we’ve tried to offer up a series of recommendations from both the Moon & Back Music staff, and from a few notable names from the world of music.
Today it’s the turn of, Moon & Back contributor (and our favourite American!) Cara Moore.


1. Dave Hause – Resolutions

I saw Dave with this album at the beginning of the year, and Twitter promotion is to thank for that. I dragged a along a group of friends to Kentucky to see him, and we all left massive fans. He let me buy his album for $9 because I tried to pay the last dollar in quarters. I doubt more than two weeks passed this year without me listening to this album. ‘Prague’ and ‘C’mon Kid’ are personal favorites.

The rest fall in no order but definitely were defining albums of 2011 for me:

Laura Stevenson And The Cans – Sit Resist

This album really blew me away. I can’t thank Fake Problems(knew they’d find a way in here!) enough for exposing them to me. This is again a choicenthat was greatly influenced by seeing them live. The lyrics are just so honest and I love the variation of instruments used. Every single sound compliments Laura’s unique voice.

The Horrible Crowes – Elsie

Anyone who knows me knows this is a given on my list. I was really happy with how Elsie turned out, mostly because it wasn’t The Gaslight Anthem like critics predicted. I had the opportunity to see one of the two US shows and it was amazing. This album just moves. There are sad songs and soft songs and powerful songs. Fallon has amazing vocal range and Ian’s ability to come through and play so dynamically as a complimentor, taking background or really blowing it out and commanding is genius and really completes the album.

Cold War Kids – Mine Is Yours

I’m a massive CWK fan. I really wish they would’ve toured to StL. Regardless this album is so good. It is poetic and strong and weird and great. I love that no CWK album sounds like it is trying to reinvent the sound yet they are all CWK. I feel like all I can say is so so good, and Hey! Listen!

The Swellers – Good For Me

This last spot was so so so hard to pick and I felt like not only was it hard enough to filter but there are still albums thatbI haven’t heard. I think this is going to be a surprise to some but I loved this album. I was even surprised by it. It was so relateable for me. I listened to it countless times this year. When I was pumped, when I was sad, when I wanted to hear something heavy-ish, when I was shoveling snow…OK not the last one yet but this album is like the color black; goes with everything. Super amazingly nice group of guys to boot.

Honorable Mention:

Ben Marwood – Outside There’s A Curse

Not only do I adore this album and Ben in general (he wrote me a poem once!) But I owe a lot to it. It was what really brought me to M&B, the podcast and mostly Ian and Barlow. It’s so mystical yet haunting yet full of lore and bouncy. He’s like the folk Buddy Holly ‘everyman.’

Other notable records:

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

Title Fight – Shed

Dan Andriano In The Emergency Room – Hurricane Season

Chuck Ragan – Covering Ground

Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Peyton On Patton

The Kooks – Junk Of The Heart

Man this was exhausting. I’m glad it only comes once a year.

Album Of The Year 2011 :: Emma Hallows’ Top 5

The idea that there’s a one true ‘album of the year’ is a pretty misguided one. With that in mind, we’ve tried to offer up a series of recommendations from both the Moon & Back Music staff, and from a few notable names from the world of music.

Today it’s the turn of Emma Hallows: Friend of the site and singer/songwriter from Manchester (stranded in Huddersfield for the foreseeable future).


Barlow asked me to do my top 5 records of 2011, so here they are:

5. The Lonely Isand – Turtleneck And Chain
Throwing a spanner in the works. I laughed so hard.

4. Chuck Ragan – Covering Ground
I think my all time favourie Chuck song might be on this record.

3. Dave Hause – Resoloutions
Beacuse Dave is an all around top bloke.

2. The Horrible Crowes – Elsie
Me and my thoughts about Brian Fallon are like an aging marriage: He doesn’t half piss me off, but i don’t like the idea of dying alone.

1. Great Cynics – Don’t Need Much
I love Giles, Iona and Bob.

I would also like to give an honorable mention to Helen Chambers, Sam Russo, Jimmy Islip and Chuck Ragan, who did the best Split/EP of the year, it totally rocks.

Moon & Back Session :: Jimmy Islip

“People usually lie down when I play” – Jimmy Islip

Jimmy Islip is a stalwart of the UK punk/emo scene. Having previously played in Eighty Six, Jimmy now divides his time between That Fucking Tank, Milloy and The Magnificent, whilst also playing solo acoustic shows every once in a while. Before playing one of the aforementioned acoustic shows, we roped him into playing a few songs for a Moon & Back Session.

As well as playing a brand new song, that we’ve dubbed ‘Untitled’, Jimmy also graced us with an acoustic version of, The Magnificent single, ‘1981’ and a cover of ‘Rumbleseat’s ‘California Burritos’. Jimmy will be embarking on a UK tour alongside Digger Barnes and Moon & Back Music/The Under The Bridge podcast will be bringing that tour to Manchester on January 28th.

For now, enjoy! And, as always, feel free to tell us who you’d like to see in session with us in the comments below.

‘Untitled’

‘1981’

‘California Burritos’ (Rumbleseat Cover)

Moon & Back Session :: Sam Russo

Ladies and gentlemen… Sam Russo!

I have it on good authority that Sam Russo is actually the fucking man! Not only is he a fantastic singer/songwriter, but he’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Sam was in town to play an impromptu show in Manchester, so we decided to get him in front of our cameras to play a few songs. Not only did we get, the excellent, ‘Tinned Peaches & Diamond Rings’ (taken from his split with Helen Chambers, Jimmy Islip and Chuck Ragan), but we were also treated to a bit of an exclusive – a brand new song by the name of ‘Black Coffee & Bingo’.

Remember, we’ll be back next Friday with another Moon & Back Session. Who do we have in store? We’ll be announcing that in the coming days over on our Facebook and Twitter pages, and if there’s anyone you’d like to see in session leave us a comment below. Enjoy!

‘Black Coffee & Bingo’


‘Tinned Peaches & Diamond Rings’

Podcast :: UTB #29: “No Helen, You’re Not Shit”

“It’s like the lesbian concept…” – Ian Critchley

We decided, in our infinite wisdom, to dedicate this episode of Under The Bridge to our friend Helen Chambers. Helen’s an awesome singer/songwriter from York (check her session out!) and, seeing as she made a few cameos o The Revival Tour this year, we thought we’d give her a ring so she could talk about her experiences on the tour – which included singing songs with Chuck Ragan and Dan Andriano. We were also joined by Jenny Gorton, who judged us way too harshly as we talked about The Borrowers, this year’s Warped Tour and why Dave Hause might think we’re stalking him, amongst other things.

Music this week was provided by Helen Chambers. We hope you enjoy the show. If you do, please rate, review and subscribe on iTunes, ‘Like’ us on Facebook and maybe even follow us on Twitter. If you want to listen to past episodes, you can go to the Under The Bridge website. Please do, that would be awesome!

Go on, have a listen:

Under The Bridge #29: “No Helen, You’re Not Shit”

Moon & Back Session :: Helen Chambers

Ladies and gentlemen…Helen Chambers!

If you’ve ever listened to Under The Bridge, you’ll know that we love Helen Chambers. The singer/songwriter from York recently released a split 12″ with Sam Russo, Jimmy Islip and, the one and only, Chuck Ragan. Not only that, but she became a surprise inclusion on more than one Revival Tour date this summer – singing alongside Chuck and, Alkaline Trio singer/bassist, Dan Andriano.

We’ve been trying to get this session done for a while now with little success, but we’re glad to finally have it up on the site for your listening/viewing pleasure. Helen performs ‘Little Demons’ a track from her debut EP and, brand new song, ‘Not Breaking Down’. We hope you enjoy them. We’ll be back next week with another Moon & Back Session!

‘Not Breaking Down’

‘Little Demons’

Interview :: Chuck Ragan

“…Sometimes it feels like I’m about to fall over.”

It’s fair to say that, for us, Chuck Ragan is somewhat of an inspiration, so we’re always honored to sit and chat with him about…pretty much anything. After six years of trying, he finally managed to bring his, highly successful, Revival Tour across the pond and was loving it, taking everything in his stride. When you consider that the man has released a two new records, worked on new material with Hot Water Music and toured the world extensively in 2011, it’s hard to see how he can cope. That’s what we were there to find out.

Interview :: Dave Hause

“I feel like a kid at Christmas or something…” – Dave Hause

Though he might be best known to some as frontman of The Loved Ones, Dave Hause has recently been carving out a career for himself as a solo artist. His debut long player Resolutions was released to wide acclaim, causing it to be picked up by Xtra Mile Recordings in the UK, but that hasn’t left him resting on his laurels. We chatted to him before the Manchester leg of the, first ever, European Revival Tour – where he’s appearing alongside Chuck Ragan, Dan Andriano and Brian Fallon – about his signing to one of the UK’s most exciting labels, his forthcoming 7″ record releases and his plan for the next Loved Ones record.

“…A Chuck Ragan Fishing Show?”

“My dream is to, someday, start a Chuck Ragan fishing show…” – Geoff Rickly (Thursday)

© 2011 The Ruckus

About seven months ago we interviewed Geoff Rickly from Thursday and he mentioned it was his “dream” to start a Chuck Ragan fishing show. We’d been told in the past that Chuck was an avid fisherman, and this was too good an opportunity to pass up. Over the following months (almost) every person we interviewed would hear the question “…Comission a Chuck Ragan fishing show?” With an interview scheduled with Chuck, Barlow cut together a video of (almost) all the responses to the question. It was only meant to be for the man himself (hence why it’s just appearing on here), but he loved it and we sent it public.

© 2011 Dicking Around Productions

Over the past few days we’ve seen a steady increase in the hits on this video, which is always cool. Today I look and it appears to be everywhere. It’s appeared on the Twitter of Hot Water Music (Chuck’s band), Thursday’s Twitter and the official Revival Tour Twitter. Chuck’s record label, SideOneDummy have posted it on their Facebook page and a bunch of awesome blogs have picked it up too.

This is just a message of shock and a thank you to everyone who’s posted the video so far. Plus, we needed to have it up on here! Chuck has seen the video and you’ll get to see his reaction tomorrow.

Thanks everyone,

Barlow & Ian

Editor(s) – Moon & Back Music