Green Day earned its right to play arena rock by, well, filling arenas. Although the members of Desa, its fellow one-time punks from San Francisco, have skipped that detail, this club-capacity band does have a coliseum-scale album that sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Due September 17, Arrive Alive surges with post-emo lilt, mathy counter-riffing, and Pyromania-era AOR muscle, under a high-gloss coating from producer Michael Rosen (AFI, Tesla, Rancid). But all good arena rock is anchored by a human element, and this could be the key to Desa's potential arrival. Unlike the average self-mythologizing MTV2 aspirant, Desa has faced actual travails.
In the quintet's former life as ska-punk act Link 80, former singer Nick Traina committed suicide, an incident publicized on Oprah by Traina's famous mother, Danielle Steel. The dual struggle of surviving a friend and living down his unforeseen daytime-TV legacy seems to have imbued Arrive Alive's 11 songs -- written by the whole band and delivered with crackly anti-bombast by singer Ryan Noble -- with the rare currency of genuine angst. If enough people are affected by that kernel of reality, Desa could find itself looking at a sea of lighters.