Hit The Lights – Skip School, Start Fights

Band: Hit The Lights
Album: Skip School, Start Fights
Genre: Pop Punk
Label: Triple Crown/East West

1. Count it!
2. Breathe In
3. Stay Out
4. Drop The Girl
5. Tell Me Where You Are
6. Hang ‘Em High
7. Back Breaker
8. Don’t Wait
9. Cry Your Eyes Out
10. Statues
11. Say What You Wanna Say
12. Wide Awake
13. On and On

I’ll be fair and say I am a little bias towards Hit The Lights. When I was growing up, I use to book for a local venue and saw hit The Lights play their first shows outside of Ohio and worked very close with them and had friendships to some extent. Now, it’s been a few years and out of all the people and bands from that time in my life, Hit The Lights and myself are the only ones really going strong still [that weren’t already signed]. I have always supported these guys and eat up everything they serve, but from a friend and critic view, there is no denying that they’ve outdone themselves with Skip School, Start Fights. I’ll spare those lazy readers and tell you right now, this is the pop punk album of the year.

To some up the past few years with Hit The Lights would take literally pages of writing in tiny font. From losing a lead singer, to tour troubles, and every little things in between, but they have been able to some it up and get it out of the way on, “Count It,” This simple introduction is started with beautiful piano and then met with a call to arms of sorts accompanying the piano with perfectly produced drums and great vocal harmonies. This is Hit The Lights telling the listener that they aren’t going anywhere and that what we’re about to hear is there statement of relevance. this is followed by, “Breathe In,” which is the first of many examples of perfected pop punk that the album will give us. The verse is simple and very asexual which makes it perfectly approachable by both sexes and the chorus of an ex lover or friend whose made bad choices is one that anyone can relate to. The hook is simply killer and makes you drool in anticipation of what could be coming up on the album. What we’re given is the album’s lead single, “Stay Out,” which, once again, is an anthem for the youth of today. IT’s all about friendship and, well, staying out all night [because sleep is for the dead]. One would be able to relate it to life on the road I’m sure, but they just want to move you and they do it so well with this rocker.

Hit The Lights incorporate a bit of computer produced sound for, “Drop The Girl,” but not to the point of most pop punk acts these days. It’s a simple synth based drum beat met with guitar and the chorus and it sucks you in like a vacuum cleaner. Also, if that wasn’t enough, the song has gang vocals and hand claps throughout at carious times. How can anyone who enjoys pop punk not love the thought of such things? I know what you’re thinking; “man if they had “whoah-ohs,” then that song would have every great pop punk element.” Well, it does. Yes, they’ve capsulized every great addition a band can use in one song and it’s great, but not even the best track on the album! “Tell Me Where You Are,” the follow up to, “Drop The Girl,” begins with beautiful piano, but seems to hit no where near as good as the preceding tracks. It’s a little bit too run of the mill in the chorus area. I’, not saying it’s bad, but it just doesn’t feel unique enough to have made the album. Luckily, “Hang ‘Em High,” brings the greatness back with full force. The song is about a social butterfly of sorts and has perfect chord progression and a drum line in the chorus that is simply undeniable.

Once we enter the back half of the record we find a true progression for the band on, “Don’t Wait.” A heavy piano line accompanying an already epic sounding intro brings us to Nick reflecting on the past without letting us know too much about the character the song discusses. In my opinion, the track is quite obviously about their previous vocalist’s departure. nick took over after colin left the band last year after he cited he no longer wanted the lifestyle of a full time band. The song is not negative towards whoever the subject is about, but rather it is a general tale of losing someone close to you. Both lyrically and musically, this is THE song that will live on from this album in five years. If the band were to quit tomorrow, people would continue to use this song for a long time. Another highlight on the back half is the fast and fearless, “Statues,” which shows the band taking a more New Found Glory type sound with heavy guitar and drum work to meet their poppy vocal lines. However, the band’s signature sound comes through clearly in the chorus with great chord progression and myspace name ready lyrics. This track is followed with the dance inducing, “Say What You Want to Say,” which plays like the song you always wait for in the band’s set before you really cut loose. Lots of cymbal work makes it dance floor ready and a mini breakdown just seals the deal on this being a new live anthem for the band.

The last two tracks on the album give us multiple looks at HTL. “Wide Awake,” is a very by the numbers pop punk song which isn’t really as strong song for the album, but is good nonetheless. It’s about loss of judgement and alcohol, which is a good topic obviously, but i don’t know, something about it isn’t as approachable as everything else. The final track, “On and On,” is a slower one with acoustic guitar and synthesized sound to boot. This is showing us another evolution of the band and it’s wonderful. Instead of hitting us with the obvious in your face, fast, punk song, Hit The Lights has opted to give us a taste of the future and it’s delicious. Nick’s vocals soar and every note is perfect. It leaves us as the listeners awaiting the next chapter in this band because it will surely set them even closer to claiming not just the pop punk scene, but music in general.

Skip School, Start Fights is so sweet that I may now need a dentist, but that’s a great feeling to have. I have spent every day of my life since I first hear Enema of The State listening and praising pop punk and their are few albums that hit the way this does. these guys have been around before All Time Low and yet are still working their way up, which is beyond wrong in my mind. If this album is marketed right [and I think with it’s appealing album art and great single worthy tracks, it will be], this band will be all over top 40 radio, MTV, and the world in no time whatsoever. They sold out their last headlining run, so it’s only a matter of time. Take my word for it, if you miss Skip School, Start Fights, you will miss out on the best thing pop punk has given the world in a long time.

*Written By: James Shotwell*
GRADE: 9.5/10

James Shotwell
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