Sunday, 19 February 2012

Review: Hit the Lights - Invicta

When Ohio's Hit the Lights first came to prominence in 2006 following the release of their debut This Is a Stick Up... Don't Make It a Murder they were an instant hit, their single Bodybag being a delightful work of pop punk which was probably the most fun anyone has made a song about a death threat sound. Most press that followed the band was extremely positive and the general belief that emerged was that the group were likely to become one of the forerunners of the next generation of pop punk. But somehow, for the group, such a prospect wasn't appealing enough and instead for their third album Invicta the group have decided to make a collection of anthemic stadium filler rock songs. Which would work. Except none of these songs are very anthemic. And aren't likely to fill up any stadiums anytime soon.
 For this album, Hit the Lights have followed in the footsteps of fellow once-destined-for-pop-punk-revolutionaries Yellowcard when they released last years hugely disappointing When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes which featured a collection of generic feel-good rock anthems with little sense of soul or intimacy attached to them. I'm pretty sure the only people who were attracted by that album were easily amused pre-teens who listened to them as a mains to claim they were a fully credible listener of rock music. Maybe I think that because the Youtube videos of the songs featured backdrops with photos of islands and dolphins out at sea with lyrics appearing in shimmering pink words. It had the tackiness of such a person attached to it. Anyway, this Hit the Lights album seems to be destined to go the same direction as Yellowcard.
 There's a lot of nice pop rock playing on the album. Songs like Gravity have massive hooks in choruses and cynics to the album cannot argue it's ability to be catchy. If stadium rock can do one thing it's big choruses and the production throughout the album is pretty stellar - if the group is going to move into the big time league of pop rock groups they may as well have a grander sound.
 And that's the biggest problem of the album. When playing simple pop punk, Hit the Lights gave a very bold, simple in-your-face performance that left a lasting impression and was filled with a certain passion. With all this extra grandness comes... extra blandness. The vocal performance of Nick Thompson throughout the album is extremely generic and has little emotional properties and leaves little impact on listeners. Plus the lyrical content of the album basically means Invicta could be called Motivational Posters With Riffs! I promise you that this album does start off quite catchy amongst this blandness but as you listen further on, the blandness becomes unenjoyable and listening to each song... feels more like a task.
 So in Hit the Lights' attempt to increase the maturity of their sound, they've only resulted in creating bland rock albums that will only be appreciated by blander radio stations that don't believe in "edgy". There's nothing in the way of any soulful passion, just attempts to sound grander and more pretentious. The only positive things that can really be found in this album is there are still a decent amount of poppy hooks but when listening one of the main thoughts going through my head was "I bet these songs would sound so much better if they were to be re-worked musically and lyrically by A Day to Remember. They are truly the forerunners in modern day pop punk and even then, they've made their success through mixing it with metalcore. Invicta is another album that proves that pop rock is in a bad state right now and has no way of gaining any real respect from any genuine music enthusiasts. Seriously Hit the Lights, stay young and fresh. Keep pop punk healthy. It's in dire need.

 Hit the Lights' Invicta is out now via Razor & Tie. 

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