If you think about it, pop-punk is the most sinister of all punk’s sub-genres. There’s something brilliant about the way it subverts a safe medium of expression known for its shallow most-common-denominator aesthetics. But, despite its pop prefix, pop-punk is at its best when it’s both brazen and reckless– representing pop only superficially– at its worst it represents punk rock at its most sanitized. Music pasteurized for mass consumption.
Hold Tight!’s Blizzard of ‘96 is an exercise in the former, managing to turn something manufactured and common into something sloppy, honest, and anthemic.
Blizzard of ‘96 holds many gems but the one that shines the brightest is its whole. Hold Tight! has crafted a sound that brings life to stodgy old punk rock vocab cliches. Reviewers love the word anthemic. We love to use it as shorthand for a rallying call– a fist pumping sing-a-long. It connotes a scene united, albeit only for the length of a song. I’ve used the word, I’ve overused the word; but with Blizzard of ‘96, I’m understanding its legitimacy. Hold Tight! has a knack for huge choruses that feel, well, anthemic. These big, majestic scream-a-longs lend the album a feeling of urgency, a nowness that represents the best of the punk community.
Musically, Hold Tight! brings to mind an amalgamation of common and uncommon elements from the theater of pop-punk. Their melodies are catchy, the songs are short and fast, but they also feature prominent lead guitar– melodically lasering through some of the albums more chaotic parts or being the sole backing to a plaintive cry. Blizzard of ‘96 never loses momentum, barreling through fourteen songs in twenty-seven minutes.
The lyricism on Blizzard of ‘96 benefits from delivery as much as diction. On “Maiden…Or Slayer,” Hold Tight! remind us how poetic lyricism is given life in music. The line “Just tonight, maybe I won’t feel tired,” is communicated with a melancholy melody and the sad, morosity of a soul reminiscing. It’s a beautiful moment that allows us a second to ponder the truthfulness of pop-punk’s fun-soaked aesthetic.
Blizzard of ‘96 is atypical, and perhaps because of that it’s interesting. On their sophomore album, Hold Tight! are battling and embracing so much of what gives pop-punk its identity. There’s some real musicality at work on this album; while the proverbial chugging power chord is present, it’s not the centerpiece. We always talk about heartfelt punk rock; coveting immaterial concepts such as authenticity– but we can only presume the words meant something to their author. On Blizzard of ‘96, they make sure we feel it. Music and lyrics meld effortlessly into a message of a youthful desperation that eventually matures into adulthood depression. Hold Tight! are honest and singular in their determination to make sense of existence, and the listener is better for it.