August is Falling – the simple plan EP (Review)

If there was a pop-punk-related list to be ticked off, August is Falling check all of the boxes on their long-awaited debut EP.

Few bands in recent memory have been able to generate the buzz that August is Falling have without having ever released studio material. Hell, questions were starting to get asked as to whether the band would ever even sit at a mixing board, content and satisfied with a finished product. Finally though, some years after their inception, that finished product is finished, and here. Does debut release the simple plan EP live up to the hype train? Having spent some time with it, the answer is yes – don’t stop the train.

Admittedly, I’ve been looking forward to this one. I first heard of August is Falling back in 2015, when I found the URL for their Myspace page (now sadly offline) written on the back of a Dunkin Donuts receipt I found on the floor of a Vans store in Philadelphia. Sometimes life serves up such magic moments, $4 for an iced coffee and a cream cheese bagel, and there are magic moments on this EP that are just as worthy of savoring.

Things kick off with the suburban escapism of The Simple Plan, which might be the track the EP is named after. Accurately capturing that “first-night-of-tour” sense of earnestness and eagerness, the band are pining for the road here, and it’s hard not to pine alongside them. Rarely has a van containing a hot tub sounded quite so inviting, buoyant instrumentals cresting against infectious vocal melodies, setting a solid tone for the four tracks that follow.

The first of these is Mad This Summer, which has been a fan favorite for a couple of years now, and gets a remix from genre hero bigtimmy11, bigger, fuller, and still just as mad / sad / rad. The Tom DeLonge-esque nasal inflections on the chorus are a highlight, bound to lodge in the brain until autumn at the earliest. Across the song’s three minutes, the band don’t miss a beato, typical of the fist-in-the-air college anthems of the mid-to-late 2000s; fans of Sum 41, The Starting Line, and New Found Glory, will certainly find something to appreciate here. The band continue to impress on third track B.T.G.G, which shouts out Boston Market (deservedly) and the titular “Blinds-to-Go-Guy,” tongue-in-cheek, before throwing in some gang vocals for good measure. The plight of the B.T.G.G is sympathetic – the everyman, diligent and devoted, swallowed up by the corporate machine until closing time, when all he wants is to get home and kick back. There’s a Charles Bukowski short story in there somewhere, and August is Falling find a lot of energy and release in the reverence they hold for their beat hero. The chorus here is stellar, bolstered by excellent production courtesy of Butch Walker (Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Green Day), who lends real credibility to the band’s ambitions.

Fourth track Don’t Click The Link, featuring Kim!, mixes things up a bit, leaning towards harsher vocals and a stomping backdrop, aiming for anthemic while targeting a YouTube generation hesitant to watch any video longer than ten minutes (let alone forty-five). It’s good therefore that the songs on display here are quickfire and cathartic, and Don’t Click The Link, despite being the ‘slowest’ track on the EP, still zips by. The Kim!-led rap verse included is both meta and mega, sharp and succinct, showcasing a diversity that continues to elevate August is Falling above their cookie-cutter peers. The track ends with a final repetition of the lines “Don’t click the link below / We’re all gonna fucking die,” and marks August is Falling at their most direct and confrontational, though elsewhere they do showcase a vulnerability aligned more so with the moodier side of the genre. Things never get acoustic (despite that Marshall in the back never being plucked in), but they do get deep. As such, it’s rare to find elsewhere images as poignant as some of those that occur here. Take the title track, for example, the second verse beginning, “I’m staring at your letters / Through the holes in your sweater / That you left behind / Back when you were mine” or the opening of Mad This Summer, on which our protagonist is “walking down the street we knew / And the flowers bloom / But all I do is think of you.” August is Falling aren’t afraid to open themselves up, to wear their heart on their sleeve, above their sleeve tattoos containing hearts.

What we have here, at the end of the day, is music from a band who are very good at what they do, and who know exactly what they want to do. Are August is Falling doing anything genre-defining or new here? Not exactly, but how much do we really need our pop-punk to be innovative over derivative? Not everybody can be Machine Gun Kelly. At its core, the simple plan EP is planned and simple, and most definitely an EP. It’s a crowd-pleasing release from a band who’ve always been able to stir-up a live crowd, and are now finally moving from the stage to the stereo, and doing so with a sizable stride in the right direction. August is falling? No, August is Falling are rising. There’s no hot tub yet, they write on their Bandcamp page, but it’s coming.

Rating: 8/10


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