Is rock dead? Is love dead? Are both dead and is it the fault of the other?
Seattle based trio Dude York certainly don’t think either have expired, playing their music with a wide-eyed devotion to the college rock motifs in vogue during the decade between the fall of grunge and the rise of the Arctic Monkeys strain of post-indie.
On their second album it’s hard to argue they’re not totally on message, joint vocalist Claire England even confiding in the press notes: ‘There are two ways things can fall – they can fall and be ruined, or they can fall gently like a feather and be fine’. As if to underscore this they’ve even, with a hundred percent sincerity, called it Falling and what’s contained displays a fascination for the subject matter that borders on obsessional.
England shares singing duties with guitarist Peter Richards, their songs bittersweet and in the case of the title track, containing a knack for observation of the little things that a new romance can bring like, ;Eating dinner for breakfast…smiling like an idiot all day…that song means everything to me’. This is a world which many will feel now lives in a slightly sentimental, Party Of Five glow, but the trio are nothing if not persistent and on the chewing-gum whirl of Unexpected Let Down there’s an energy and enthusiasm which even the most hard-hearted will struggle not to get caught up in.
One way of sustaining this vibe is by having some change-ups to your game, but the variations here are generally modest. On :15 England and Richards share harmonies – a rarity which is generally under explored across the album – and on Making Sense the middling tempo that seems to be their preference is slowed down to more of a riffed-out simmer, the first signs perhaps of metaphorical doubt and anxiety amongst the adrenaline rush of discovery.
If there are any such demons lurking at the periphery of this bliss, it’s Richards that gets to explore them with more conviction. DGAFAF (I Know What’s Real) is his mantra, an elementary song about belief in what’s right, while on How It Goes The 90’s, Breeders-eque guitar fuzz is whipped into something more direct. He also gets to wear his broken heart on his sleeve on Box, an angsty album peak where the subject wallows in regret and feels scars, played out to a background of icy synth-vamps there to remind us how cold being alone really feels.
Falling is made from stories like that, a narrowness of tone and theme which could’ve ended up leaving everyone in a high and dry mood without much empathy. It’s to Dude York’s credit that they’ve managed to create enough angles to make it interesting enough for us to care.
If the end is nigh for rock music and love, this might as well be part of the soundtrack.