Vinnie Caruana hits the spot with his first solo full length
Vinnie Caruana has been kicking about the Punk & Hardcore scene for nearly two decades; that doesn’t make him old by the way, but it does render him wise to the ups and downs of life. The innate desire to possess a certain amount of life experience is what has led him to leave releasing a full length solo record until the age of 36 and, to his credit, ‘Survivor’s Guilt’ is all the richer for that fact.
The Long Islander is best known for being the frontman of Drive-Thru Records favourites The Movielife before they went their separate ways in 2003 after the release of their seminal ‘Forty Hour Train Back to Penn’ album. The break-up hurt Caruana but led to the formation of I Am the Avalanche and a debut, self-titled album in 2005. Unfortunately, a lengthy barren spell of 6 years followed as the frontman dealt the emotions of divorce as well as label issues for the band.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. And that’s the point. Since I Am the Avalanche’s 2011 album, ‘Avalanche United’, Caruana has been enjoying a fully-fledged renaissance period. The success of ‘Avalanche United’ and its follow up, ‘Wolverines’, along with the reformation of The Movielife have revitalised the well-loved punker and kept him very busy. He somehow found time to release an EP of predominantly acoustic songs in 2013 called ‘City by the Sea’ but ‘Survivor’s Guilt’ is a different beast altogether.
Though the record comes under Caruana’s name, he wasn’t totally alone in bringing it to life. He played all of the guitars but enlisted the help of two of his I Am the Avalanche bandmates with Kellen Robson providing the Bass whilst Brett ‘The Ratt’ Romnes drummed on and produced the album. Familiar instrumentalists and production coupled with Caruana really finding and establishing his vocal style since the inception of I Am the Avalanche gives ‘Survivor’s Guilt’ an undeniable edge; it’s a very shrewd move as Caruana gives the casual listener no indication that this is a debut effort.
Opening track ‘Burn It Down’ does start off things sounding like IATA with their foot off the gas, it’s not a bad thing as it eases you into Caruana flexing his songwriting muscles as the record moves on. Softer ground is tread on the strings-tinged ‘We Don’t Have to Die Alone’ as well as ‘Angel of the North’. The latter unveils Caruana as the Anglophile that some of his more hardened fans know him to be as it’s littered with references to England like “Down south the rocks of Brighton, they sing to me, they can hardly tell that I’m American anymore. I fooled them with my overcoat and insightful opinions on football”. It’s just a shame them insights are Liverpool FC based, Vin.
Elsewhere, the title track provides an album highlight whilst ‘Heavy Weighs the Summer’ again reminds us just how influential Caruana, although mostly on vocal duty in his bands, is in their songwriting. He has developed a fantastic knack of penning gravelly anthems to be belted out in a live setting. ‘I Don’t Believe You’ is no exception to that fact and features some impressive guitar work that teeters on being poppy, or at least as poppy as Caruana has ever been on record.
The album concludes on ‘You’re Religion is Killing Me’, a mostly instrumental, dark and grungy closer that harnesses the kind of energy and tension Brand New showed on ‘Welcome to Bangkok’ as the song title’s sentiments are screamed faintly in the mix. It’s a statement that solo Vinnie Caruana doesn’t mean a totally mellowed out Vinnie Caruana; far from it. Plus, going forward, The Movielife and I Am the Avalanche’s activity looks set to be largely dependent on the availability of others; we could be hearing a lot more of this man in a solo capacity and, thankfully, that’s no less exciting. Kudos, Mr Caruana.
‘Survivor’s Guilt’ is released on the 27th of May via Equal Vision Records in the US and Big Scary Monsters in the EU & UK.
This Vinnie Caruana article was written by Simon Carline, a GIGsoup contributor.