Sunday, November 20, 2011

H2O - 2011 Don't Forget Your Roots

Band : H2O
Album : Don't Forget Your Roots
Release Year : 2011
Genre : Melodic | Hardcore | Punk

Tracklist :
 01. Attitude (Bad Brains)
02. Satyagraha (7 Seconds)
03. Pride (Madball)
04. Get The Time (Descendents)
05. Said Gun (Embrace)
06. I Wanna Live (Ramones)
07. Cats and Dogs (Gorilla Biscuits)
08. Someday I Suppose (The Mighty Mighty Bosstones)
09. Journey To The End Of The East Bay (Rancid)
10. Safe (Dag Nasty)
11. Sick Boy (Social Distortion)
12. Friends Like You (Sick Of It All)
13. Train in Vain (The Clash)
14. Scared (Verbal Assault)
15. Don't Forget The Struggle, Don't Forget The Streets... (Warzone)

Tossing up punk rock's ubiquitous "go!" comes as second nature to NYHC band H2O as rehashing the notion of a “positive mental attitude." Look again, and the two-letter word symbolizes that Toby Morse and his bandmates are quite the death defying bunch. Not in that Cyclops laser beam shootout kind of way, but in that way where an aging band continues to release albums with a seemingly worn yet medallion worthy motto: "still here, still here, after all these fucking years." Since 1995, that H2O optimism has blitzed vanity tainted scenes leaving no shirt un-clutched. Despite one's survival luck, however, covering 14 songs can be self-flagellating--- like Punk Goes Pop volumes or nondescript bands trespassing into the best-left-alone territories of Adele. But to add another positive side to H2O's resume, they've shared stages with 80% of the selected bands. Thus Don't Forget Your Roots, in its limited lyrical tweaks and stunts, is nothing more than their pulpit of fidelity to the genre without the blindfolds.

Slight dichotomies, understandably, are the album's defining feature: a tame organ ballad vs H2O's upbeat rocker on Ramones' "I Wanna Live"; the bat-shit berserk H.R. swapped out for subdued Toby Morse vocals on Bad Brains' "Attitude"; the grand brass backdrop on Mighty Mighty Bosstones' "Someday I Suppose" anti-climatically swapped out for Todd Morse's guitar leads; melody entwined bootstraps rock vs Rusty Pistachio triplet guitar chugs and heavy duty gang vocals on Social Distortion's "Sick Boy". Two of the best covers on the record are a near resurrection of H2O's Go--- Embrace's "Said Gun" and Dag Nasty's "Safe"--- making room for the band's trademark bouncy harmonies. The H2O aesthetic remains unscathed, in its recognizable style of grit above glitz, and clamor minus the glamor.

Morse's limited range only goes so far, and age once again proves to be a toll taker. Even so, his familiar "school one knucklehead at a time" tone is bullet spitfire. Guitarists Todd Morse and Pistachio are a missing links squad who attempt to fill in diverse parts from the originals through sustained leads or fractionally-modified riffs, while the drummer and bassist go into tag team mode for a poppy output. No song is pristinely whitewashed for a hot tub full of Benjamins, nor do any walk on eggshells to satisfy the listener's nostalgic urges. As far as the "still here" quintet is concerned, unfiltered and straight-forward are their first and middle names. The reason Morse doesn't go full blown HR ballistic, for example, is to defiantly puppeteer the H2O aesthetic. Don't Forget Your Roots grabs the band's unshakable 16-year attitude to shape itself into a brick-wall tribute, leaving the stigma of covers for actors and impersonators.

So even when H2O don't push limits, they're carrying a mirror at all times. All the finger pointing and banter and blare on the album are the vines and roots from the originals, although some walk a fine line between skippy and skippable where true umph is due. But as a whole, it's quite the switchblade that edges more nicks in the punk rock family tree than any steady hand could. -Dre Okorley

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