Since their inception in 2012, Dude York has remained an undeniably solid American rock band, even if their output rarely worked to distinguish themselves from their contemporaries. The Pacific Northwest pop-punk outfit has fostered an endearing charisma, as they wear their affection for mid-90s alt-rock proudly on their sleeve. The band’s fourth studio album, Falling, won’t be the record that announces their departure from the pack, but stands amongst their most compelling studio material as a glowing advertisement for their energetic live show.
Bathing in nostalgia, Dude York continue to pull from the sounds of their childhood, not wearing it as a costume but simply openly paying tribute to their influences. Falling feels like the kind of record that fully understands the bruised psyche of teenagers, wallowing in waves of the emotional immediacy of youth (“I’ll never love again / How could I?”) on tunes like sparkling, electro-tinged “Box” and angsty, light-hearted “I’m the 1 4 U.” It’s an album that sees the world in extremes, as the band reconnects with their awkward and energized adolescence with skater chic (“Let Down”) and barebones, sing-song pop-punk (“Longest Time”).
It’s a fun record, but also one that showcases the band’s increased musical ability. Throughout Falling, Peter Richards shows off some of his most impressive guitar work yet, particularly on the ripping back-to-back-to-back run of crunchy, buzzing “Only Wish” into racing, visceral “Unexpected” into emotive, melancholy “How It Goes.” But that care and attention also comes through in the tender, restrained moments like unplugged, accusatory “Doesn’t Matter,” acoustic, swirling “:15,” and stripped down and painful “Making Sense.” Dude York remain cheeky and playful, but they still know when to get serious, and they are constantly improving their craft.
One of the best decisions the band made was having Richards and Claire England split the vocal duties as equals. Falling is the first time when their talents have been distributed evenly, and their sound is all the better for it. Richards and England each bring their signature style to the track, while also bringing out the best in one another. Both performers feel most at home when peppy and upbeat, as on spirited, dynamic “Should’ve,” hard-hitting “Falling,” and speedy, communal “DGAFAF (I Know What’s Real).” Together, they add a real punch to these tight songs.
Like most of Dude York’s output, Falling always feels like it was just as much fun to make as it is to listen to. The Seattle punks still seem enamored with being in a band together and exploring the possibilities of their collective sound. The record seems to be painting with a much more diverse palate than before, and yet these songs are all clearly born out of the same creative space. Dude York has always been a fun band, but this may very well be the moment when they became an interesting one.