F.T.T.W. is NYC hardcore
's third album, released in 1999 on Epitaph Records
. Many discographies list F.T.T.W.'s name as Faster Than the World. This is incorrect; H2O deliberately abbreviated the title for reasons other than merely saving space on the CD's cover. As a genre, hardcore punk has a very negative connotation. When people hear the word "hardcore", they think of talentless freaks screaming, making worthless noise instead of music. A big part of the hardcore scene is composed of that garbage
. On the other hand, it is possible to make fast, good music that pleases the ear. H2O provides a great example of this with F.T.T.W.
H2O's songs on F.T.T.W. deal with problems faced by the members of the band and their friends. Some tracks describe the ways people deal with problems together by unifying instead of fighting each other. Others stress the importance of an individual's reputation, remembering where you came from, and who helped you along the way. Another big theme for H2O's songs is being true to one's self and not presenting false images. All of these themes blend together to produce a brilliant mix of ideas that never gets boring.
The members of H2O are five of the smartest punks in the whole New York scene. One theme that keeps popping up in this album is numerology, specifically with the number three. The album cover displays a big number three on top of a three-headed club, like those found on playing cards. A great deal of H2O merchandise takes the form of shirts and jerseys with the number three on the back, as if it were the number of a sports player. F.T.T.W. marks H2O's third release. The back cover of the album has an image of the band standing outside a subway station for the 3 line, the train in NYC that runs across Seventh, Broadway, and Lenox -- close to H2O's territory.
The album opens with Faster Than the World, which is very fitting for H2O. The guitars, bass, drums, and vocals on most of H2O's songs go at a breakneck pace, but this is not the only reason they're Faster Than the World. The band has climbed up the ranks of the hardcore scene extremely quickly, more quickly than anyone in recent history. Frontman Toby Morse's days as a Sick Of It All roadie are far from forgotten. In this song, many guest vocalists make an appearance: Tim Armstrong from Rancid, Dicky Barrett from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Roger Miret of Agnostic Front, and Ryunosuke. Toby, with the help of his guest vocalists, lists many of the places H2O has played and stayed. As we'll see many examples of later, the appearance of guest singers is not unique to this track. All in all, this track's fast pace is an excellent way to open up an album such as F.T.T.W.
Song #2 is Empty Pockets, which describes the financial troubles of the American people of today. The lyrics of Empty Pockets blame poverty for fighting, crime, and many other things. Strangely, this song still has a very upbeat-sounding rhythm to it. Right after this song comes the insightful One Life, One Chance. The importance of time and taking advantage of it is stressed on this song, as well as others on all of H2O's albums. This track is one of the slowest on the whole record, but it's still much faster than most bands could ever play.
H2O's best known song, Guilty By Association, is next. This song's opening bass lines and drums are unmistakable. Toby sings all about keeping his friends out of trouble when they start getting into it, and how people judge him based on their actions. Freddy Crecien of Madball comes in as a guest vocalist halfway through the song. Chrisipline, the drummer of Under The Gun, and a group listed as "the H2O choir" are credited with backing vocals. This is one of my favorite tracks by H2O, and hearing it on a compilation introduced me to H2O in the first place.
Fading follows Guilty By Association. Again, it touches on the theme of time and not having or wanting to wait for anything. This song is incredibly fast and doesn't last very long -- it's possible Toby ran out of breath while recording it. Bootstraps is also a fast, short song. This one gives tribute to all the people who have helped H2O get where they are today, pulling them up by their bootstraps and not hesitating to help them. The lyrics also make it clear that H2O is more than willing to repay the favor.
Can I Overcome is well described by its title. It's all about confidence, strength, and willpower. H2O's tenacious nature and never-give-up attitude are largely responsible for their success, and these attitudes are expressed in this song. Track #8 is Found the Truth Within. This song carries the same rhythm and message as the previous track. In addition to the themes that have already been presented throughout the record, this song deals with some other things. One thing touched upon is dispatching fear by standing up for what you believe in.
Chants of "Old School! Recess! Old School! Recess!" meet your ears for the next song. Old School Recess reflects on earlier life, growing up in a punk scene and not having any responsibilities. Everyone wants those days to last, but everyone also has to face the music and grow up. This message provides a good set-up for Helpless Not Hopeless. Once again we see lyrics like, "Time! It's funny how time slips away! And all your dreams, won't wait another day!" It's more melodic than most of F.T.T.W's tracks, and it sounds great. Go, H2O's 2001 release, explores this side even more.
Next up is On Your Feet, a song about pride and what a huge mistake arrogance is. While being a false friend and taking advantage of people may get you ahead in life, eventually it will drag you back down. This track marks a return to fast, less melodic songs that gets reinforced by Day By Day. This song makes reference to H2O's earlier song Five Year Plan, with the lyric, "My five year plan has turned to ten, and it's all gonna happen again." H2O didn't really know how successful they were going to be when they started, and it's nice to see that they've come full circle.
Dicky Barrett helps Toby out on Force Field. This song is about anger and its destructive qualities. Though Barrett has a rough voice and Toby's voice is distinctive in its own way, they mix together surprisingly well. Next comes E.Z. 2. B. Anti, with guest vocalist Civ, aka Anthony Civerelli. It criticizes the people who are obsessed with political correctness, blame, and judgment. It really is easy to believe that you're right and make judgment, but differences in individuals make life what it is. This song makes this message clear as day.
M & M is an odd name for a song by a band like H2O, but it's a damn good song. This song, like Old School Recess, reflects upon youth. M & M differs in that it mostly deals with forgetting past mistakes and looking forward to the future. The track is quite long and even has a drawn-out bridge part. After this, though, comes the quick Reputation Calls. When your reputation calls, you've got to answer. This track stresses the fact that you can't hide behind false images because one day, someone will discover the truth.
Liberate is a clear call to end violence. It begins with most of the band singing the lines "No more lies with violent ends, no more fakes disguised as friends". This chorus is very catchy and gives a smooth edge to an otherwise rough, fast song.
Follow the Three Way is the last "real" track on the record. Cleverly enough, this song also fits the F.T.T.W. initials of the album title. The lyrics of this song deal directly with the issues of the numerology of the number three dealing with the band, opening with a "1, 2, 3!" and continuing on. The lyrics also discuss religion, superstition, numerology, and other things that have to do with the number three. H2O thinks that its "trilogy must have tradition", and "so we still have such a mission." They don't seem to take any serious stock in the number three's supposed importance, but they don't seem to mind that it's constantly there on their road to the top.
There is a hidden track on the record, a cover of Not Just Boys Fun by 7 Seconds. This song is about men who are bastards to women and treat them badly. The lyrics booklet has a note from H2O, "read these lyrics, they still hold true today. it's just one of the many inspirational songs by them."
It's not a coincidence that F.T.T.W. fits the names of the first and last tracks. Faster Than the World is the opening track, and the one that most people have heard of. Follow the Three Way focuses more on the appearance and circumstances of the number 3. Instead of a long thank you list in their CD booklet, which one would expect from H2O considering all of their songs about help and friendship, they refer their fans to their web site. For most bands this would be an empty promise, but www.h2ogo.com has an extensive list of thank yous.
F.T.T.W. builds upon the work of their first two albums. I was never impressed with H2O before this record, but this has become of my favorite albums of all time. H2O came out with Go two years after the release of F.T.T.W., and now the future looks even brighter for them.