The Oktober People – S/T

The eponymous debut album from The Oktober People owes quite a debt to The Verve’s A Storm in Heaven, if you ask me. The guitar chords – echoing and reverbed and spacey – imbue the sound with the same kind of grand moments you heard from Nick McCabe back then. The big-sound passages trade time with gentle, sad, and melodic moments, in a mode that has become pretty familiar over the past decade. As a fan of this kind of music, I knew I’d like The Oktober People within a couple of minutes of putting the CD into the player.

It’s easy for a band to fall into a well-known formula when it’s putting its songs together. And The Oktober People certainly do like their whisper-to-a-scream dynamics (instrumental screams, though – never vocal screaming). It’s not surprising to hear comparisons to Mogwai, for just this reason. Like Mogwai’s CODY in another way, The Oktober People capture a sense of loneliness and alienation in their down moments. The vocals come often in whispers. The lyrics express regret, disappointment, and failure.

“Well I’m shooting the shit with projector enthusiasts / Watching old films of the west,” a line from “Projector Enthusiasts,” sounds exactly like something from Modest Mouse. It’s not just the words themselves (hanging with the uncool, passing/wasting time), but the manner in which they’re delivered. Of course, they’re preceded by other self-critical lines that smack of Building Something Out of Nothing: “All the kids on the block / They tell me I’m dumb / Because I don’t know which way to walk / Maybe it’s just / The fact that I’m a simple / A broken-up red piece of chalk.” After a while, the song veers into another space-borne rave-up that characterizes much of this material. It’s the proverbial catharsis after the confession, the release that gets helps the pain go away.

“Anger Before Pleasure,” an instrumental track whose title reflects this idea of cathartic release, begins slowly and sparsely. The mood is established by the long-held (e-bowed?) guitar notes in the background and the melancholy second guitar. After a while the drums come in, and by the midway point the band is pushing itself to be louder and more strident. It never breaks away completely, though, and in terms of intensity it never reaches that of “The Sky is Falling” or “The Jupiter Influence” or “The Roosevelt Incident,” where the band shows you its teeth.

Some of these songs take a long time to unfold, and some of the tracks end up a little too similar to one another. “Cheap Hotel on the Side of the Road,” at 7:50, is actually two songs. After working itself up in a lather, it grows quiet, allowing the drums to kick in – doing a beat that has little or no connection to what’s come before in the song. The lyrics tell of someone lost in thought at a diner. In fact, it’s this song that contains some of the saddest lines on the CD: “I’m always thinking every day / Should I leave or maybe I should stay / But she don’t care either way / so I guess I’ll lay back / And think of things I never had / A normal life and a mom and dad who say / ‘Everything’s OK’.” It reads trite, but in the song it’s actually quite affecting. It hits you in the same way as “Hey Goodbye” from the Macha Loved Bedhead album.

I hope The Oktober People can hold on longer than Bedhead did, and I hope we don’t need some other band to record their unrealized ideas. A first step might be for this album to land on the desk of an A&R person at a record label, so get the word out.