I have a friend who coined a term for a genre of music: “ponk”. He came up with the term some time ago to embrace a whole slew of punk bands that play essentially pop music, such as Blink 182 and Sum 41. If you combine the words “pop” and “punk”, you get “ponk”. Get it? Well, the Ohio-based Hit the Lights is essentially a ponk band, as evidenced by their latest release Invicta (not to be confused with an EP released late last year with the same name and three of the 11 songs that make up this release). However, Hit the Lights do add an interesting wrinkle to the ponk sound: they manage to convey all of the adolescent angst and black-eyeliner emoness of pop-punk with the bombast and sturdiness of ‘80s arena rock. When you first hear the cavernous drums of opening song “Invincible”, you have to wonder if Robert John “Mutt” Lange (of AC/DC and Def Leppard fame) had a hand in producing the track. And those keyboards on “Gravity”, I swear, seem lifted right out of a Mr. Mister song.
The thing with Invicta is that its first half is swelling and almost orchestral in its rendering of the ponk aesthetic. However, something happens by the time you get around to “Float Through Me”, the album’s sixth track. The music becomes smaller somehow, as though it were being played through the world’s tiniest music box. All of the hardness and heavy-hitting candour of the album’s first five songs seem to get to get sucked out of a vapour lock and into a massive black hole. It’s as though the band simply couldn’t sustain the unbridled energy they had unleashed throughout the record’s first act. That makes Invicta unfortunately limp and a missed opportunity—a record that starts out pretty good for what it is and then somehow runs right out of steam. Invicta might have been better, as a result, as an EP—not the one released in 2011, but one that cherry-picked the first five songs or so and left it at that. As a full-bodied document, Invicta the LP will leave you disappointed, and the real “ponk” sound will be the echo of your hand slapping your forehead, wondering how on earth a band could become so deflated when they burst onto the album sounding so confident and bigger than life. The end result is that Invicta is pretty much for die-hard Hit the Lights or ponk fans only.