H2o: use your voice review
Growing up in the Bay Area of California has it's perks. From my birth in 1988 leading up to moving here to Montana in 2002 I was exposed to many diverse cultures, atmospheres, sights, smells and open mindedness to name a few. Most importantly it was the music that stuck with me. Green Day, Blink-182, Rancid, Pennywise and Operation Ivy were some of the first punk bands I heard as a kid. I remember vividly playing an arcade game in the late 90's and this song from a particular punk band was playing in the game. It caught my ears and my full attention. That band was H2O.
H2O's origins date back to 1994 in New York City. Formed by lead singer Toby Morse, he recruited his brother Todd Morse on guitar, bassist Eric Rice (later replaced a year later by Adam Blake), guitarist Rusty Pistachio and drummer Max Capshaw (later replaced a year later by Todd Friend). The first few years of the band's career revolved around constant touring, including opening for punk legends Rancid as well as No Doubt. H2O's live shows are known to be rowdy, energetic and heavy on crowd participation and plenty of stage dives.
1996 saw the release of the band's debut self-titled album. In support of their 10-song record the band extensively toured with Shelter, Murphys Law and Social Distortion. During this touring cycle the band performed at the legendary CBGB's and filmed a music video for their song "Family Tree" in the process. In 1997 H2O released "Thicker Than Water" and soon found themselves back on the road for the better part of 2 years touring the world playing the whole touring route for Van's Warped Tour 1998 and 1999 and performing alongside Misfits, Pennywise and Sick of It All to name a few. H2O by this point solidified their commitment to constant touring and as they did, their fanbase grew.
H2O's third album "F.T.T.W." was released in 1999. The song "One Life One Chance" would become a monument statement for the band and the reason for many OLOC tattoos. After signing to MCA Records, the band released their major label debut album "Go" in 2001. Once again the band hit the road playing up to 200 shows as well as making their network television debut on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and doing another stint on the Vans Warped Tour.
The mid-2000's saw H2O continuing to tour the world. In 2008 the band signed to renowned punk label Bridge 9 Records and released their first album of new material in 7 years called "Nothing to Prove". Produced by Chad Gilbert (guitarist of New Found Glory and long time fan of the band), "Nothing to Prove" proved to be a breath of fresh air for the band who refuse to give up making the music that has positively impacted the lives of their fans and the band members themselves. To this day that album remains to be my favorite they've released.
Another 7 years have passed since "Nothing to Prove" and H2O has come back with something to say on the appropriately titled "Use Your Voice". Once again the band teamed up with Chad Gilbert to produce yet another masterpiece in the band's catalog. The album begins with "Black Sheep" as actor/friend of the band Michael Rapaport opens the song with these words: "There's very little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. That little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it's positive or negative. You gotta keep that PMA"
In the album's 20+ minute run-time, H2O doesn't hold back. "Use Your Voice" is very much an in your face record and doesn't let up. That's how I like punk music; fast, honest and to the point. Songs like "Thick and Thin" and "Father Figure" show you can be vulnerable and still be punk. "Still Dreaming" focuses on the social-economic infrastructure/lack of equality in our society. "#NotRealLife" is the silliest song title ever that talks about social media. Including a hashtag in a song title loses my interest in that song. If there's a low point in this album, "#NotRealLife" would be it.
Positive Mental Attitude, staying true to yourself and standing up for what you believe in are the lessons I've learned from H2O's music over the years. While "Use Your Voice" doesn't top my love for "Nothing to Prove", that doesn't mean it's a bad record. With the exception of the song "#NotRealLife", "Use Your Voice" is a great album from a great band. H2O have always been faster than the world and I don't see them slowing down any time soon.
Links for H2O
One Life One Chance (Toby Morse's non-profit organization that focuses on inspiring K-12 grade school students to live a clean, drug-free life, maintain a positive attitude and self-respect): http://www.onelifeonechance.com/