"My friends look out for me like family" - from H2O's "5 Yr. Plan"
"I was thinking about the good ol' times/and all the people who helped me survive/and who the hell knows where I'd be without the branches of a family tree" - from H2O's "Family Tree"
While I haven't really kept up with H2O in the last few years (I don't even know what label they're on now), their impact on me is still felt. Here's the story:
Back in the late-'90s, I thought hardcore-tinged punk rock was synonymous with tough guy machismo. If you weren't ready to throw down in a mosh pit, it was best to stay away. I didn't hear much about brotherhood in this music; I heard shout-along slogans about being straight edge and how much life sucked. In other words, I thought all hardcore was a voice of frustration, not a voice of hope.
I was introduced to H2O via a short-lived show on MTV called Indie Outing, which showcased up-and-coming acts on indie labels. What struck me about the band was that despite their tough-guy image (musclebound guys with arms filled with tattoos), they were singing about the importance of friendship. This was hardcore too? This was great and I could relate to this. The band, especially singer Toby Morse, was very sincere (he still is). I picked up both their self-titled debut album and Thicker Than Water and proceeded to play them frequently for the next few months (and returning to them in the next few years). Eventually I got burned out on H2O following the release of their 2001 album, Go!, due to my dwindling interest in pop-punk.
As I think about the ideas that have stayed with me through the years, I keep going back to what Toby was singing about all those years ago. The attitude that you can have your own ideals and get along with people that don't match your's is really cool. I learned that you could be sincere, be honest with your feelings and not be cheesy. This was a little foreign with a lot of hardcore and punk back in my day.
So much of the hardcore that I saw was an uncompromising, "believe this or else," creed with strict beliefs on things like not drinking, not smoking and not fooling around. Seeing people flip out if someone wasn't straight edge or vegan or whatever else puzzled me: what does any of this have to do with the music? This was more like a violent cult filled with intimidation. This didn't seem like it was based on harmony.
H2O wasn't violence-inducing moshcore where you had to display your beliefs with X's drawn by a Magic Marker pen on your hands or with patches loosely sewn on your clothes. Talking about how important your friends were to you knew no boundary with race, age, scene or upbringing. This was what punk rock and hardcore meant to me and what it still means to me.