I’m not really sure what qualifies for “modern” rock these days. Nor am I sure that was ever a category of rock music outside of the K-Rock marketing department. But I suppose if there were a thing called modern rock these days, October Drift would qualify. Not quite indie rock and not quite rock rock, they have that very produced sound couched in a semi-aggressive, big hard rock style that melds the bombast of a Turnstile with the arena rock aspirations of a Gang of Youths.
Because what is modern rock, really, in a world that no longer values the genre? I suppose off in its little corner of the world, bands like October Drift are a little too polished to be considered true indie rock. A little too focused on the form to be punk. Not really rooted in hardcore, so can’t really be post-hardcore like so many of their presumed peers. And are just too straight-forward to be post-punk revival. So I suppose, being modern rock and being on an indie label, they get the indie rock treatment. For what it’s all worth. But, honestly, categorizing a band’s music is the least important thing one can do. But, hey, tags are tags.
What really matters is the music itself. Is it good? Certainly a subjective thing. But not always. Because in the case of October Drift’s very emo-titled sophomore effort, I Don’t Belong Anywhere, it’s kind of impossible to argue that they don’t write a compelling group of tunes. I did bump a little on the production on first listen. When lead track, “Airborne Panic Attack,” rolls out, it’s a cool track, but the chorus is this kind of gang-sung thing, which I normally enjoy. But they drown it a bit in fuzzy gain that I’m not a huge fan of. It feels like it wants to be raw, but the clipped blow-out feels like they’re trying too hard. Like the producer fucked with it too much, instead of just letting the music be. This continues to some extent into track two, the album’s best song, “Waltzer.” I suppose this is just a me thing, but the echo-y fuzz divorces the listener from the band in some ways. It sounds as if they’re singing in an empty pool, or in a reverberating glass box. And while some albums have just completely killed my experience with this nonsense, October Drift dials it back a bit for large portions of their songs, employing it as a soft-loud dynamic specific for the choruses. You know, Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins style. Which, after several listens I got used to and actually feel works for the band’s kind of post-grunge music. Especially in headphones.
I do think this record could have some legs if the right people get ahold of it. It really does have the earmarks of classic bands like U2 and The Cure, along with some of the maturity of The National and theatrical instincts of The Killers. Not that I know who is actually looking for anything in the rock genre these days, but I do feel like this album could have pretty wide appeal. It’s propulsive and melodic. The lead singer has a good voice. And they write really decent hooks. It all sounds familiar without seeming copycat. It treads that line where it cranks the gain, but isn’t overly noisy or aggressive to the point of ear strain. Or scaring away the more meek rock fans. Which you would think would be all the hallmarks of a successful album. But who can even figure out what that means these days. One of the strongest competitors for top albums of 2023 so far. But maybe that’s just me.