Rehab Rock 

Self-released • 2024

Rock-bottom has never sounded so fun on HOT MUD’s debut, Rehab Rock.

In the unhallowed halls of rock and roll, there are ample tales of our most venerated artists succumbing to their vices. Often, the mention of rehab is, in passing, a news bite of another celebrity with demons. It’s referred to as a “stint,” like a shift with a punch card or just another part of building the mythos of the troubled artistic genius. The rehab experience is rarely documented in detail, and the usual approach is one of omission. In the few cases of detailed autobiography, artists approach their recovery unironically, as the socially appropriate response is one of repentance. Surely, one cannot make light of such a painful journey to recovery.

But this is precisely what the debut album by HOT MUD sets out to do and with such charm and – dare I say – fun that you can’t help but partake in his hardwon merrymaking.

After all, this album was the byproduct of Muddy Watters while he recovered at the Sobriety House Treatment Facility in Ottawa, Canada. Alongside “recovery work, attended meetings… and settl[ing] into second-stage sober living”, he “crammed musical instruments, recording equipment, and cameras into this tiny room the size of your mother’s closet”. His previous stints as a radio host and sound engineer help explain why this debut album sounds as polished as it does, despite using a variety of suboptimal equipment, “some found in the rehab facility’s basement”. 

But the real marvel of this album is the focused package. Sure, it’s scrappy DIY all the way through, but his gap-toothed logo, VHS-filtered music videos, Ray-Bans with the missing lens, and screams washed-out indie-sleaze. The pathos is palpable, and while a bit of self-mythologizing gets in the way of the subject matter, HOT MUD never deviates from the punk-rock-post-recovery-party metaphor. A real attention to detail, a drive and resourcefulness make it sound far more sophisticated than a debut. 
Take “Birthday in Rehab,” for example. It’s tragicomedy at its finest, with a kumbaya singalong in the same genre as Monty Python’s “Always Look On The Bright Side of Life”. Opener “Where The Bad Kids Go” sets up the story of being sent to rehab with a playful and anthemic chorus, toeing that line between the cool of the underdog and the self-reflective, recovering addict. “Learning To Be Lonely” has the delivery of Julian Casablancas but reflects on the real challenge of being ok with solitude.

Online, there’s very little out there on Muddy Watters or his alter-ego, which lends credence to HOT MUD being compelled to make a record in the absence of his vices as a kind of therapy. You can imagine him stewing in his closet studio, laser-focused on this project as a distraction from withdrawal. Admittedly, this is the kind of redemptive hook that audiences love, and it doesn’t hurt that HOT MUD has done such an excellent job of getting our hips shaking in the process.

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Hua Li 化力 
“Part Time Muses”