While The Routine is wrapped up in the trappings of a major-label release -- with its liners listing out business managers, guitar and drum technicians, and no less than five engineers -- Hotwire's debut full-length manages to avoid most of the after-market tinkering that made disappointing sound-alikes out of their suburban Cali counterparts in Hoobastank and Audiovent. Sure, The Routine channels the same mixture of Deftones rage and Incubus yearning. But together with producer Matt Hyde (Fu Manchu, Hatebreed), Hotwire's Russ Martin (vocals/guitar), Brian Borg (drums), Chris Strauser (bass), and Gabe Garcia (guitar) have made a debut that shows actual promise, instead of simply sticking with what's been proven to work. And in a post-grunge climate with clearly defined boundaries, that counts as a compliment. The post-hardcore one-two punch of "Not Today" and "Invisible" tears open The Routine with aggressive dynamic shifts and very little filler, while "Nice Profile" works on opening the cut with a fist-pumping chorus that can be forgiven for sounding like the soundtrack to a beer commercial. The ballads of the album's middle suffer, since there is nothing in either Martin's indistinct croon or the band's plodding riffs to separate them from contemporaries like Chevelle. (That said, "Say What You Want" does include a gorgeous acoustic coda that's a nice break before The Routine's second half.) Bogged down as it is with a directionless midsection, Hotwire's debut isn't ultimately as successful as its first half would suggest. But as The Routine draws to a close, screamers like "Magazine" and the punishing half-time finale to "Neuro Girl" again show Hotwire's promise and suggest that the high points of its debut aren't just a studio fluke.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus