Most bands that get labeled "punk" nowadays fall into two separate categories. First there's Buzzcocks-by-the-way-of-Green Day pop punk, to whom the term "punk" means little more than distorted guitars and a cheeky attitude. Then there are the purists, whose slavish attachments to the tropes of the past (studded leather jackets, spiked hair, Germs T-shirts, shitty music) render them as calcified and predictable as a tie-dyed jam band.
Fortunately, there are bands such as Hot Water Music forging a third path. One of the new breed of punk bands (you can call them post-hardcore, if you've got that kind of spare time), Hot Water Music plays rock hard and loud and angry, with an intricacy that livens up the songs without drifting into heavy-metal hysterics or math-rock masturbation. Along with bands such as Alkaline Trio and Avail, Hot Water Music has revitalized punk rock by bringing passion back to the forefront of the music. It isn't punk because of a haircut or how it sounds; it's punk because of what it makes you want to do when you listen to it -- which is to tear something down.
As the band's new release, Caution, shows, Hot Water Music hasn't slipped a notch since forming in 1994, which suggests a powerhouse of a live show. Whether you think punk is dead or just whored out, come have your faith restored Tuesday night.