The December Drive – Hands Like Guns and Crashing Sounds

The December Drive
Hands Like Guns and Crashing Sounds

After first hearing of The December Drive, it took a while until I heard more than the name. One look at the moniker and I assumed this would be a generic-sounding band. Hands Like Guns and Crashing Sounds, the band’s debut CD, proved me wrong and then some. The young Weslaco, Texas quintet offers a surprisingly mature take on sprawling emotional rock. The melancholic style of emo, comparable to Sunny Day Real Estate’s How it Feels to be Something On album, displays passion on a grand scale. While popular emo bands pigeonhole themselves with incessant whining, The December Drive broadly covers earnest feelings of longing, anger, and happiness. Maybe it’s the lack of sky-high whining that allows The December Drive’s members to distance themselves from the stale emo genre. The music also draws heavy influences from Engine Down and Thursday, with dark guitar tones reminiscent of the two. Hands Like Guns and Crashing Sounds leaves the impression that mainstream emo is faking it, and this debut effort confirms this statement.

The heartfelt vocals of “Buffalo Wing Diplomacy” range from dreamy whispers to explosive choruses sustained as long as possible. Songs become so much more intense when the vocalist goes all out with these soaring lyrics. Reaching a climax at the end of the song, guitar distortion roars, drumming escalates into a frenzy, and screams bring the song to a close. Adding to the intense side of the band is the screaming that really heightens the rock factor. That being said, “1426” closes the album with a bang, when nonchalant singing is abruptly replaced mid sentence by a wall of screaming and riffs.

The majority of the songs contain melodic, brooding guitar exploration. By occasionally adding moments of blasting riffs and loud vocals, the CD is always kept interesting. Although the album suffers from conforming song structures, The December Drive attempts to add variety with the ironically titled “And Now We Will Justify Your Criticism.” The track appears in the middle of the album, instantly kicking off with dueling guitars and screaming. Another straight-ahead rocker is “1426,” which begins after continuous feedback drone from the previous song. “1426” shatters the feedback and displays post-hardcore influences with reckless abandon. Crashing, dissonant guitars and volatile screaming brings the album to a chaotic end.

The recording quality itself makes the songs even better. A quality production job by Anthony Perez results in clear vocals and crisp music. “Enough” opens with percussion that sounds like it’s coming from another room, until the volume gradually rises back to normal. When the guitars finally simmer in “No Remembering,” the longing vocals sound as if they’re reaching yours ears from a mile away. It’s these subtle touches that make the feeling really stand out above the band’s peers.

A substantial amount of the CD is instrumental due to the long song lengths, but the lyrics complement the parts. “Someday, I’d like to forget my way home.” This one line surfaces on both the first and last songs, setting the cryptic lyric tone. The December Drive gets its point across, albeit through thought-provoking lyrics. Writing songs about relationships sounds played out on the surface, but “ostracized in your eyes, stop playing the martyr” does the subject justice in “Buffalo Wing Diplomacy.” In “The Great Awakening,” which reflects upon a car crash, “look what, look what surprised me!” gets sung repeatedly. The band outdoes itself when the upbeat refrain is repeated after some guitar noodling. When the guitars begin to heat up, these inspiring vocals powerfully shine through again. Easily the highlight song of the CD, it’s also the longest one at over 14 minutes.

Considering this is only a debut effort, it’s very promising that The December Drive’s members are already such gifted songwriters. Their serious yet sensitive style of emo probably won’t blow up anytime soon. Still, don’t make my mistake and overlook this fine album for a minute. The sophomore album is still in the works, but I’m already the first in line.