As December Falls – ‘Join The Club’

By Katherine Allvey

Punk is the music of independence. From every teen with an off-centre, poorly dyed mohawk to an office worker rolling down their sleeves to cover their tattooed Black Flag bars, it’s a scene where you have to be prepared to go it alone. As December Falls represent that spirit to a tee.  

For the last nine years they’ve been tearing up the UK circuit and have recently spread their wings on a European tour. In addition to their invigorating live shows, they’re the kind of band to put their money where their mouth is, both literally and figuratively: the bank loan they took out to self-fund their second album was repaid instantly thanks to the floods of pre-orders and their beast of a social media presence. ‘Join The Club’, As December Falls’ third outing, promises a heavier take on the pop-punk staples of angst, power chords and jolly nihilism.  

While there is a decent amount of bite to the tracks, the ‘heaviness’ on ‘Join The Club’ isn’t oppressive at all and partially concealed behind Bethany’s Barbie vocals. ‘Mayday’ is the biggest stomper and piles digital guitar onto the brittle drumbeats until the cracks show, and while As December Falls is more than capable of doing the epic pop-punk nihilism, their strength is in their vulnerability. ‘Go Away’ could have worked as a moody teenage door-slam, but what we get is aching Samiam desperation echoing through Matt Skiba’s stereo, and the empty ‘older Amy Lee’ strength pulsing through ‘I Can’t Sleep’ elevates As December Falls above their posing contemporaries. However, it’s the quiet little road lullaby ‘Home’ that captures your heart. It’s a lonely song, as raw as a skinned knee, and proves that As December Falls has the rare quality of being able to twist an empathetic knife without compromising on their sound. It’s their elegance with the dramatic pauses, frequently with a hauntingly sincere Gaslight Anthem-lite guitar line or point of screeching rage, that add a certain charm to the experience of each song.

This is an enticing and anachronistic record. It could have been sucked up by a tornado in 2001 and flung out today a la the Wizard of Oz, and you’d be none the wiser. ‘Join The Club’ is a masterful replica of exactly the sort of album which would be all over the rock clubs at the turn of the millennium without that much ‘modern’ innovation. To some that could be seen as a criticism, but it’s intended as a compliment. That particular era in punk produced countless iconic bands and carried with it a distinct scent of intentional purity, like honeysuckle mixed with stale beer in plastic cups. Knowing what you want to achieve as a band is an admirable goal, and to have set their musical sights on a specific and incredibly popular era with ‘Join The Club’ is going to be a strategy that wins As December Falls a lot more new fans outside their already-growing pool of followers. “I know you’ll be returning for me,” sings Bethany like a dumped nightingale on ‘Tear It Out’, and yes, we absolutely will be. It’s a courageous decision to walk your own line through the DIY Punk world, and As December Falls deserve your full admiration and attention.

KATE ALLVEY

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