Hit the Lights
Skip School, Start Fights

Hit The Lights - Skip School, Start Fights

Considering a majority of their fan base ranges in the age group of 14-18 years of age, Skip School, Start Fights might not be the wisest message to send to today’s ever-vulnerable youth, who have taken the bait from every young pop band with scenester haircuts. Yet for Ohio pop-punk quartet Hit The Lights, they appear to be a different breed of pop-punk – no synthesizers blazing the overproduced dance songs, no overdubbed auto-tuned vocals, and well … no scenester haircuts to be seen as far as I can tell. In fact, they might even do pop-punk better than just about anyone out there right now, not making any large creative strides, simply offering a slice of sprightly exhilaration.

How is all this possible, you might be asking? With dozens of pop bands to choose from, the music scene for today’s teenagers has become a major-label-funded ice cream truck of sorts. Most fans likely choose their ice cream by the way it looks and not by the way it tastes – after all, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ice cream is so much yummier than banana fudge. Although, in the long run, the coolest (let’s use that term lightly) looking one is always the most difficult to eat and gives you the biggest stomachache.

Hit The Lights redeem themselves, in a sense, on their follow-up LP to 2006’s This Is A Stick-Up… Don’t Make It A Murder, which was incessantly catchy and breezy, but quickly lost its luster. Ex-vocalist Colin Ross had too much of a deviated septum to sing for 40-minutes straight and eventually, the album lost touch with its audience. After Ross subsequently left the band late last year, guitarist Nick Thompson stepped up to the microphone and surprised many as a fresher, cleaner voice for this guitar-driven, straightforward pop-punk band looking to simply bring forth some high-energy fun to the Myspace Generation.

After the piano-laden, introductory “Count It,” an anthem confirming the band has been through their hardships and is preparing to rock faces, the band pulls a 180 on the listener by ripping into “Breathe In,” which could easily be mistaken for an All Time Low b-side (come to think of it, many of these could be). “Stay Out” sounds even more amped up than it’s demo version did, and there’s no hiding the huge single potential “Drop The Girl” has; it’s infectious, addictive and despite its repetitive nature, dares to spin a web inside your eardrum. “Tell Me Where You Are” is a slick ditty with all the charm and pizazz a radio-ready single should have, but once “Hangs Em High” reaches its conclusion, the album begins to bleed together. Perhaps it is the fault of producer Rob Freeman (ex-Hidden In Plain View), who knows how to make a record sound huge, but also doesn’t provide it with enough variety. Thompson’s vocals sounded more organic on the demos and seem tinkered with here, at times so much like Alex Gaskarth (All Time Low), it’s hard to decipher who you’re listening to.

The combination of distorted guitars and crisp vocals can be used to great effect (see: New Found Glory), however in this scene, it’s a dangerous line to walk across, and easy to get lost in the shuffle. Hit The Lights does pop-punk better than most, writing enjoyable melodies with solid harmonic backing. That doesn’t keep the album from having its moments though: the lyrics generally fall along the same thematic material any band of this genre would write about (growing up, falling in and out of love, etc.) and don‘t add anything to what you’re hearing; “Don’t Wait” sounds like a lost Ataris ballad from So Long, Astoria; and “Cry Your Eyes Out” drifts into “Come One, Come All” (by All Time Low) by it’s finale. “Statues” is perhaps the discs most obnoxious track, featuring a whiny chorus lacking the massive hooks – and personality – found on the first six songs.

Skip School, Start Fights
 really does present a worthwhile album to fans of pop-punk; guitarists Omar Zehery and Kevin Mahoney shred on each track, bringing splendid balance to each other. However, the songs are all so easily-accessible and instantly-catchy, once the album is over, they won’t stick around for much longer. The tunes provide as much energy as a couple cans of Red Bull, and sure, it’s not a bad batch of songs here, however the production is too slick for its own merit and with a rawer intensity behind it, might haven taken the familiarity away. All in all, you could do much worse in this ever-growing copycat genre – and the truth is, Hit The Lights are the perfect relief for your summertime heat wave; they do it without having to look cool or act hip for their audience. They bring immediacy to an ADD audience who refuses to wait for that tasty ice cream treat to melt and is willing to take the brain freeze.

This article was originally published on AbsolutePunk.net