REVIEW: OHIO ON HI – THE BITTER HELLO (2013)
A friend of mine remarked recently on the disproportionately small pop punk scene in central Ohio. I mean, Columbus has been a breeding ground for some pretty big names as well as a myriad of rising stars in their respective national scenes – O.A.R., Blueprint, twenty one pilots, Attack Attack! and others. By comparison, the biggest thing to come out the pop punk scene in Columbus in recent years has been City Lights (who just got off a nationwide tour with Vans Warped scenesters Chunk! No Captain Chunk). We need fresh faces with passion. Enter Ohio On Hi.
I’ve been fortunate enough to interact with the guys who range in age from just out of high school to mid 20s, both at a performance (opening for Squid the Whale and The Orphan, The Poet) and as attendees at Razor & Tie Records’ Such Gold show. While not technically a Columbus band (their hometown is in a rural part of southern Ohio, not too far from Portsmouth) they identify with the Columbus scene more than any other, opening area show when they can (they recently played a pretty big show with Hit the Lights at up and coming venue Skate Naked). The Bitter Hello is the culmination of lots of hard work, and I can tell.
Ohio On Hi’s sound leans more toward the alternative side of pop punk. Vocalist Colby Lykins has a sound that sounds a bit like Mark Hoppus (Blink 182) and he’ll only get better with age. Lykins doesn’t have a huge range, but he doesn’t need to in order to accomplish what his band is aiming for. The Bitter Hello is five tracks of powerhouse grooves that were released at just the right time – the beginning of summer. The mood begs summer airplay, perhaps performed live in a skate park or on a city street corner. The song titles suggest that the band still knows how to not take themselves too seriously, with names like “I Ran Over Schodinger’s Cat” to “Remember the Flammable Boy.”
The fact that this band is so young is both good and bad. The mix of the album is a tad disjointed. I mean, it is far above average for most independent punk bands putting out their first major release but a common thought I had was that the guitar was so powerful it drowned out Colby’s vocals. The vocal style is such that it doesn’t stand out from the guitar tone as much automatically, so perhaps this will be something to consider in the future. Just a touch of hardcore influence can be heard, such as a few well placed screams and double bass kicks (see “The Small Town Scene”). The band treads toward a power ballad very briefly, in quite of a “fake you out” move at the start of “Remember the Flammable Boy.” It is a sign that the band knows what they are good at. From the genre straddling guitar playing of Tye Rigsby, the on point bass of Josh Cassill, to the in rhythm drumming of Andy Mock this group possesses the tools to make it far if they would get noticed by a lot of people. “We are the one and only / the lost and lonely / the bitter ‘hello / and the sweetest ‘goodbye’” is a phrase that ought to be echoing in your head all summer.