The path taken by October Drift up to now is a well-trodden one, getting their sea legs on the blogosphere where the amicable but tremendously misguided practice of giving everything a chance to become huge can lead to a very uncertain mindset when it comes to new bands starting out. It’s a level of cynicism that can be counterproductive – especially when some bands actually end up living up to the pedestal they’ve been automatically placed upon – but there’s a certain amount of fairness that comes with it in letting these bands shine on their own merits rather than premeditated hype. That’s somewhere October Drift are currently going right, with a solid live presence and a sound drawing on dense indie-rock and shoegaze in a way that’s definitely shown potential in their singles. As such, the buildup to Forever Whatever is one that does ultimately feel earned, to the point where the high benchmark that seems customary for new bands like this to bear is one that October Drift could actually live up to.
But in the end, Forever Whatever does kind of fall short of that, not because it’s explicitly bad but because for everything that October Drift get right on here, something about it just refuses to click, and what’s left is a band with clear talent and ability, but executed in a way that could do with a bit more refinement to reap more benefits. Even then though, there is a lot to like right out of the gate, and diverting from any noticeable trends has given October Drift a lot more mileage for going forward already. This is still a good debut, but a flawed one at the same time, and those flaws prove a bit too much to allow Forever Whatever to cross into a more indelibly strong tier.
That’s a shame as well, because October Drift have a substantially stronger foundation than a lot of bands at their stage of life tend to. The feeling of being grounded to their influences is still there, particularly when the Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine worship really come to the fore, but if nothing else, there’s more than the bare bones there. Losing My Touch proves especially powerful as an opener with its screaming walls of guitars and throbbing bass falling in a quintessentially ‘90s nexus of grunge and shoegaze, while more bombastic cuts like Oh The Silence and Don’t Give Me Hope or the expansive indie flecks of Milky Blue bring to mind shades of a band like Elbow in lighter tones that still feel dense and layered. It’s a sonically imposing album, to be sure, even if it does feel as though melody and tunefulness aren’t quite in equilibrium.
And really, that’s where Forever Whatever falls down the hardest. There’s no denying that October Drift have a very well-defined sound, especially in the modern scene, but the niggling feeling that it isn’t utilised in the best way across the album does prevail. There’s the potential to make some huge, sweeping anthems here, especially seeing as the production does give these songs both heft and delicacy in equal measure, but honing in on hookcraft doesn’t seem to have been done to a great enough degree, and that can really hurt this album in terms of memorability. For an album as deeply rooted in huge, broad emotions as this one is – and boosted even further by the natural weariness and dejected glaze that comes in Kiran Roy’s vocals – there’s a naturally fertile well to tap into there, and yet for some reason, October Drift don’t do it quite as much as they should. They get close with the likes of Don’t Give Me Hope or the impressive swirls of strings against the acoustic Naked, but getting the broader sound down seems to have been a greater priority than refining it.
That in itself isn’t a bad thing though, and it’s certainly done enough to build up future interest in October Drift, especially if they can do more with what they’ve already proven is a strong instrumental foundation. It’s really the lack of that extra spark that prevents Forever Whatever from going further, keeping it in the territory of a good album without being too much of a damage to the ceiling that’s keeping it at a certain level. There’s next to no doubt that October Drift can break that ceiling, and there’s enough here to suggest they’ll definitely pick up the momentum to at least be given another attempt at it, but that really does need to be where the killing blow is delivered. This is solid, but it could realistically be great.
For fans of: Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine, Avalanche Party
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Forever Whatever’ by October Drift is released on 24th January on Physical Education Records.