Summer Bones caught me completely off guard. I haven’t even heard a Hit The Lights song for the better part of a decade (“Three Oh Nine”, baby!) and didn’t know what I would be walking into. I can’t say that I expected a highly polished pummeling of heavy pop punk lessons on each high in the genre. Summer Bones has every element of what I want from a classic pop punk record, impressive musicianship on the part of every member and high octane, memorable songs that guarantee to be blasting from my stereo for years to come. For those wanting a brutal jam, you’ve found it.
Let’s get this out of the way – the album is amazing. For what it lacks in length (just passes the twenty-five minute mark) is makes up for by cutting away all the filler and ripping through high energy punk rock with a fire the Ramones would be proud of. Each song sounds necessary and thoroughly written, despite a majority of the ten songs hovering around the ‘2:30’ mark by plus or minus a few seconds. Summer Bones is fast, brutal and created specifically to completely dominate summer festivals.
Guitarists Omar Zehery and Kevin Mahoney absolutely own the record. They’re overwhelmingly the dominant focus of the music and are just captivatingly brilliant. The guitars are memorable in a way that is hard to replicate in pop punk, considering that the music consists of blistering walls of power chords and easycore style breakdowns (“The Real”).
Bassist David Bermosk adds a much needed depth to the guitar that boosts the effect of layering to make them sound much thicker and possibly heavier than they really are (“Life On the Bottom”). The sound of the guitar wouldn’t exist without him. Nate Van Damme’s drumming is impeccable and brutal, reminding me stylistically of New Found Glory’s Cyrus Bolooki, which I hope is as good of a compliment as I mean it to be.
Nick Thompson’s vocals are killer. He presses his range and strength throughout the album multiple times, always to great results. It’s the type of singing that reminds me of hearing FOB’s Patrick Stump for the first time when you never realized his full range. Thompson impresses almost straight out of the gate (“Fucked Up Kids”). On top of it all, each song is easily ready to be memorized for proper sing-a-longs by a bouncing crowd.
Thematically, Summer Bones is brutal. It’s an angsty pop punk ‘bro-down’ ready to start a fight and reminisce about older times. Thompson belts out war cries like, “For every night I slept myself sick wondering what I did / This is goodbye, I hope you fucking choke on it” over crisp guitars (“No Filter”), or the honest musings of, “Every inadvertently fostering controversy / A trait of mine it seems, to laugh at all the darker sides of things / Never been one to miss out when contention comes around / I find myself at peace while those around me ask how I could be” from “Blasphemy, Myself and I”.
While the album has all of the thematic anthems of pop punk, that’s unfortunately all there really is. The lyrics do little to delve deeper than surface level, and can sometimes feel a bit forced for glamor points (“But we burn the brightest during the night shift / Hanging with New York’s finest / So when the bars close and everyone goes home, we don’t go” from “Fucked Up Kids”) or childish (“I’ll drop you like a ton of bricks”).
For me, Summer Bones is a classic record. It has everything that makes it memorable to my taste and will be put to good use throughout the summer for myself and anyone within several hundred feet of my speakers. The only problem I have with this record is that I feel like I’ve heard it all before. Parts of songs sound too similar to bands like New Found Glory (“Revolutions Executions”) or Four Year Strong (“The Real”). Thompson’s vocals sometimes delve to sound like other vocalists accidentally, like the twinge of Coheed’s Claudio Sanchez (“Life on the Bottom”). It feels like the best influences of other bands made their way into the songs every now and then, which will either distract listeners or delight them with the props given to influences.
Summer Bones is an album designed to dominate the season and deafen anyone nearby. For anyone wanting the energy, there’s little else to ask for. For people hoping for a deeper dive into the sound of the band’s previous release, Invicta, you may be disappointed. Hit The Lights blew me away. Maybe I’m just a sucker for heavy pop punk, or this crafts pop punk a little too closely to a ‘paint-by-number’ formula of inspiration, but this is an album I will remember for a very long time.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and can’t believe he never gave Hit The Lights a chance. THE FOOL!