Though J-Ro, Tash, and E-Swift haven't been as influential as Joey and Johnny Ramone and their revolving cast of faux-siblings, it otherwise isn't heretical to call Tha Alkaholiks the Ramones of hip-hop—beloved cult heroes who pushed their respective genres forward by reconnecting them with the rebellious energy and vitality of their earliest days. Both groups inspired adoration from peers and critics and somehow managed to exude boyish innocence, in spite of lyrics constantly extolling teenage cheap kicks: sniffing glue, partying, chasing girls, smoking bud, and drinking brew. And now Tha Alkaholiks, like the Ramones before them, are crying out "last call" by announcing a final album that'll give fans a chance to mourn their imminent dissolution while they're still around.
The early buzz said that Firewater marked a return to classic Alkaholiks form after the calculated minimalism of the group's underwhelming last album, X.O. Experience. Like most spin, however, this turns out to be wishful thinking: Firewater very much features an extension of X.O.'s fashionable electric sound. The disc's first song, "Turn It Up," makes a stronger case for lean, mean minimalism than the rest of the album, stirring together Tha Liks' drunken lyrical tomfoolery with prehistoric 808 beats, the outlaw revving of a motorcycle, and subtle synthesizer bursts. Lyrically, rappers J-Ro and Tash continue to make suspended adolescence seem like a winning lifestyle choice, with witty punchlines, impeccable timing, and an inclusive old-school house-party vibe. Tha Alkaholiks have done more than anyone since Dean Martin to advance the lost art of the comic-drunk act, but here, E-Swift's production too often feels like an afterthought. Tha Alkaholiks' ostensible swan song is ultimately more like the Pet Sematary theme than like "I Wanna Be Sedated": far from classic, but pretty damn fun nonetheless.