It’s the hottest, sunniest week of the year so far, which to be honest isn’t the best climate to review the latest EP from October and the Eyes. I saw this lot supporting Yves Tumor back in March and they are absolutely primed for dingy, darkened rooms and ghostly nights. If you’ve ever watched Twin Peaks, this is a band made to perform at the Roadhouse. It’s therefore a test of the credentials of Who Upset You? as to whether it can drag me back to bleak midwinter with its music.
The first track is amusingly entitled ‘Jack Black Must Die’, and it quickly becomes clear that their recorded output is true to their live sound. The opener is all echoing instrumentation and sinister guitars. There’s a Stone Roses interpolation towards the end of the song as lead singer October sings “I am the resurrection and I am the life”. It’s unclear what their problem is with Jack Black’s filmography, but the bellowing of those four words repeatedly gives their dark sound a neat touch of humour – a knowing acknowledgement of the theatricality of their setup. A promising start.
I described moments of their live show as sounding like spirits were escaping from the speakers, and pleasingly they’ve kept that feeling on ‘Spiral’, the most accomplished song here. Martin Hannett would have been proud of this production as hollow drums clatter and industrial sounds echo in the background. The lyrics feel totally cryptic, with the “can’t keep pushing away” refrain revealing little. It’s songs like this which initially piqued my interest and I’m glad that they’ve delivered on record.
The next couple of songs are straightforward affairs. ‘When I Was Your Girl’ begins with powerfully strummed chords that swirl around October’s vocals, before developing into a simple chorus about a past relationship. Title track ‘Who Upset You?’ is driven forward by thumping drums, and its haunting background tones again suggest a Halloween night. These songs are competently made, but the simplicity also works against them as they feel rather unmemorable even after repeated listens. These songs worked better live, with the energy of a crowd elevating them.
Much better is closer ‘Walk The Line’. It’s the most striking outlier here, dispensing with the drums entirely in favour of a reverb-laden almost acoustic guitar. The vocals are shrouded in a haze of distortion. The willingness to display a different sound shows another dimension to their music, which is always a confident flex on a short release. I don’t know what the lyrics are about, but they maintain an air of mystery – and it’s a telling sign that I’m curious as to what the mystery is about (even though I’m listening to it under 22°c blue skies).
A couple of impressively produced tracks and a knowing undercurrent of humour make Who Upset You? a solidly intriguing release from October and the Eyes. Watch out for them at a haunted house near you.
Words by Tom Burrows