So it looks like we’re getting more from Action/Adventure, eh? And that’s said under good terms too, not just because they appear to be a rare TikTok breakthrough that’s sticking, but also because their Pulling Focus EP last year was really quite good. It was the sort of throwback to pop-punk from years past that’s ultimately healthy within the genre’s current climate, evoking Four Year Strong or older New Found Glory with an older sense of know-how, balanced with as much exuberance and melodic prospect as you like.
Except that’s not where that wider conversation ends, because it’s Action/Adventure’s status as a wholly BIPOC band that feels important to where they are right now. It’s no secret that pop-punk has lacked diversity pretty much since the beginning—and that’s regardless of the angle from which it’s viewed—but the sea change is noticeable with the upswing of bands like Pinkshift, Meet Me @ The Altar and, indeed, Action/Adventure themselves. And so, with a debut album carrying a title as brazenly layered as Imposter Syndrome, it implies from the gate something more than just another bit of kindling for an ever-ablaze genre fire.
If they aren’t there yet, they’re heading towards it at a rate of knots. Imposter Syndrome is as bold and fun as they come on the surface, without neglecting a humanity underneath that’s very representative of pop-punk attitudes both then and now. With emotions encapsulated in the album’s title, Action/Adventure really strike hard and fast across the board, in a propensity to self-sabotage on Losing Streak and Levity, and the worries of uncertainty within a fickle industry on Carolina Reaper. Within that side of the genre, that’s about as close to undistilled pop-punk as you can get.
Of course, that’ll inevitably open up the notion of how race factors into this, particularly under the accusations of ‘race-baiting’ that followed their breakout track Barricades. It’s definitely an added knot in the subtext of the album, but in general, Action/Adventure’s own grievances are consolidated enough to where it largely stays there. Obviously it’d be interesting to hear that perspective come to the fore more, but it never feels like a gaping omission. After all, it can be interpreted as the most literal depiction of ‘imposter syndrome’, being ingratiated into a scene that has very limited representation, and the cycle of self-doubt and hostility that feeds into each other through it. When Action/Adventure call their music “pop-punk for adults”, this is exactly the sort of benchmark they should be aiming for; it feels real and human, and layered in a way that experiences like this often are. There’s none of the beautified influencer ‘angst’ of so much modern pop-punk, and Imposter Syndrome is all the better for it.
At the same time though, you can’t discount a hefty ol’ slab of nostalgia for that either. That’s always going to be the case when you’re playing to that early- to mid-2000s style (i.e. pop-punk’s best era, and it’s not up for debate), and doing it practically without a hitch. There’s a great chunkiness to the sound, especially the guitars that take up so much space in the mix, verging on easycore without getting quite that heavy. And when that’s paired with hooks for days, it taps into the joy receptors so quickly and resolutely; a summer going forward without hearing the chorus to Autopilot live will be a summer wasted, frankly.
It’s the kind of throwback that works because it’s not chomping at the bit to replicate literally everything about its chosen era. Funnily enough, when it does, it highlights the weaknesses of those elements that haven’t gone away, namely the double-time drums that have always sounded awkward in pop-punk, and whose absence hasn’t been missed at all. Thankfully they’re just fleeting instances; Action/Adventure have far more creative spark driving them than that, between a lot of interesting melodies that opt for more angular progressions overall, and a strong vocal presence from Blake Evaristo, whose adoption of a more traditional pop-punk timbre sounds really natural and flowing here.
And that’s not to say that Action/Adventure are faultlessly landing on their feet every time. As much as they’re moving out of the shadows of their influences, they aren’t there yet, nor do they feel as tightly orchestrated in their music as they potentially could. Even so, it’s been a while since a band in pop-punk has been so forward with the potential they have, and so willing to show where that can come into play. The pop-punk mainstream is dying for bands like this to get big, and every indication is pointing towards Action/Adventure doing just that. And when it’s not just them but the wave of like-minded acts really pushing the renaissance forwards, the genre is in the safest of hands.
For fans of: Four Year Strong, New Found Glory, The Story So Far
‘Imposter Syndrome’ by Action/Adventure is released on 11th November on Pure Noise Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall