Straightforward, entertaining and hopeful pop punk
Pop punk can be the perfect catalyst for one’s emotional catharsis. The genre’s associations with teenage angst and the volatility of emotional growth as a young adult only prove the genre’s value in this way; in the moments when people feel most misunderstood and outcasted, the agile and hard-hitting instrumentation, imperfect vocals and naked lyrics match the emotionally exposed nature of growing up.
Brooklyn band I Am the Avalanche have lived comfortably in and around the bounds of this always exciting (and sometimes misrepresented) genre for about 15 years. They’re back with DIVE, a collection of ten intensely rewarding tracks that tread the same well-worn territory with reverence, expertise and a whole lot of energy.
The project clocks in at an extremely tight 30 minutes. I Am the Avalanche remain focused from start to finish, exploring universal personal obstacles like romantic failure with nuance, and with the goal of convincing their listeners that it actually is possible to vault over these obstacles with grace. Vocalist Vinnie Caruana kicks off the project with the most overtly encouraging track, “Better Days,” a fantastic opener with shades of early blink-182. The other singles, “You’re No Good to Me Dead” and “Dive,” maintain momentum in a similar vein, before “Fake Weed” ratchets up the existential dread with the most powerful punk instrumentation yet. “Love Song 69” then relaxes back into an even more introspective lane, exploring love’s profound and immediate effect on one’s daily life over subdued electric guitar for most of the track. Caruana’s fantastic vocal performances and bold instrumentation remain consistent for the extent of DIVE’s relatively brief runtime.
Other album highlights include “Tokyo,” a beautifully raspy confrontation of tragedy and loss, and “The Morning,” a hopeful, thankful and overall fantastic conclusion to the project. The “All I ask of you” screams in between reserved and reflective verses are unforgettable. The only critique of the project is the lack of experimentation beyond what the group has clearly already mastered. More moments like the impressive time signature changes on the title track could’ve elevated the project even further. The group has clear hardcore and math influences, they just don’t reach into those bags often enough.
Generally speaking, pop punk that frustrates pretentious listeners leans into it’s most obviously pop-ish conventions, and steals elements of punk as a veneer and accent, as opposed to the respectful and careful manipulation that the complex genre deserves. I Am the Avalanche’s DIVE couldn’t be further from that corner of pop punk, and while the band is unlikely to accumulate any of the commercial accolades that tend to find their way into that same corner, they are much more likely to connect with listeners on a personal level.
This is music that satisfies closely held urges—imagine a post-bad day at high school bedroom head banging session. DIVE taps into these moments of youthful catharsis, and effectively recontextualizes them into the more adult world of romantic disappointment, substance abuse and the intense existential terror that follows the realization that life isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be (or at least, what people were told it could eventually be).