I have a theory: The first album you listen to by one of your favorite musicians ends up being one of your favorite releases by said band, regardless of how it was received by critics or fans. Of course, this isn't always the case, but who hasn't ever had to answer to "You like that album, really?"
One such record is H2O's fourth full length album, Go. It's not the band's best work, but it's still a solid album. In honor of H2O headlining the first night of Within These Walls at Nile Theateron Friday, September 21, here's a look at why Go deserves a second listen.
Let me start this by saying I understand why people don't like this record. H2O had just signed to MCA and released a super melodic pop punk album. The band went from a really cool 7 Seconds cover to a so-so Madonna cover. The vocals were different and the songs were much slower and lacked the ferocity of previous H2O records.
2001 was also a great year for music, especially punk. Bouncing Souls, Propagandhi, and Leftover Crack all put out solid releases and let's face it, Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes has aged a bit better than Go.
Honestly, if I was familiar with H2O when Thicker Than Water and F.T.T.W. were released, I'd probably hate Go too. H2O's previous work was excellent and Go is quite the departure from the band's melodic hardcore sound, but in my defense, I was a kid when those albums came out, so I didn't know better.
Out of context,Go
is a great record. H2O's change in sound is understandable thanks to pop punk's increasing popularity. New Found Glory and Green Day were getting tons of airplay and Blink-182 had just releasedTake Off Your Pants and Jacket
, so similar bands were popping up left and right. WithGo
, H2O was marketed to the same crowd. It may not be the band's most riveting album, but it made H2O more accessible to new audiences.
The album is catchy as all hell, even if the song titles can't be abbreviated as F.T.T.W. Songs like "Self Reliable" and "Role Model" were well written, intense alternatives to Blink-182's potty mouthed humor. Yes, the vocals are way different and the songs are slowed down, but there are plenty of classic H2O elements sprinkled in. The heavier riffs and gang vocals on "Ripe or Rotting" and "Songs Remain" make these songs sound like they could have shown up on older albums. H2O songs have a few recurring themes: PMA (positive mental attitude), treating loved ones and yourself with respect, and commentary on the music scene. These all show up in one form or another on this record, though it's not quite as obvious as the previous three. The most dominant theme is respect, with "Role Model" encouraging listeners to make decisions for themselves and look up to peers instead of figures on television or radio.
"Songs Remain" is another form of "Family Tree." People change, but the underlying values are the same, and those classic songs will always be there, so don't forget your roots.
Some of the songs on Go are a little weird. "I Want I Want" is a sarcastic commentary on materialism and trying to fit in that wasn't perfected until "What Happened?" seven years later. Asking when it became about the image instead of the art is a bit more pressing than wanting shoes and video games.
Regardless of H2O's foray into pop punk, the songs are catchy and memorable. "Ripe or Rotting" would still fare well in the band's set and songs like "Self Reliable" and "Memory Lane" can get stuck in your head for days.
Plus, the chorus of the Madonna cover is actually pretty cool. It may not be a Madball cover, but the whole song would be pretty rad if the rest of it was sped up a bit.
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Go is not H2O's definitive work, but it was a great way for new fans to get into their music. Though, I have to admit, re-listening to Go a few times for this post really put me in the mood for this: