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Record Review - 3 July 25 2001

By definition, punk rock abides by no rules. However, most punk bands feel the need to follow the laws of brevity and simplicity, two guidelines which often can be restraining. Nonetheless, Gainesville, Fla.'s Hot Water Music has breathed life and originality into that often monotonous genre without breaking down any walls into unexplored territory.

Their new album, A Flight and a Crash, rocks with a sonorous fury that recalls Fugazi's seminal punk release 13 Songs. However, Hot Water Music trades Fugazi's rebel political agenda for an endearing introspection that's more common among emo bands. So you can call them emo if you'd like, but this album screams "punk" with a pum-meling furor that is highly inspiring and startlingly refreshing.

The only song that doesn't inspire jumpy aggression is the balladesque "She Takes it So Well," a quick piano- laden breather featuring folky guitar strumming. Yet for this track, singer/ guitarists Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard don't tone down their singing at all. The juxtaposition of their hardcore vocal stylings with the charming downbeat melodies sounds like the vocalists are bleeding their hearts out into the microphone. Punk music is known for raw emotion, but never has it been so hauntingly moving.

The rest of the album tracks are purely blistering yet very catchy, mostly due to Ragan and Wollard's chanted vocal lines. But the music does not underscore the singing — the soaring guitar interplay, thundering drums and slithering yet rhythmic bass lines are just as crucial as the heroically brutal vocals.

Simply stated, A Flight and a Crash is one of the great rock albums released this year. In a genre that has been sounding the same for more than 25 years, Hot Water Music manages to stick to the rules without inspiring a single wearied yawn.

Hot Water Music plays the Echo Lounge Sat., July 28.??