Review Summary: Octobre semble lutter contre la maudite machine...
Progressive rock can have many kinds of subjects: from war, fantasies of the medieval times, as well the tarot cards. Hell, it can even be about a tale of two brothers in New York City. However, one subject in Canada was practically rarely discussed: the government itself. Octobre, named after a local political crisis in their hometown of Quebec, would come to the front out of the many bands spawned by the French-Canadian/Quebecois folk rock renaissance of the early seventies (along with Harmonium, Offenbach and Maneige) to go against the higher-ups relentlessly. Led by an eighteen year-old vocalist/keyboardist from a bourgeoisie upbringing, Pierre Flynn had a bone to pick with the government along with other band mates, and oddly used the genre of progressive rock to voice their discontent with the political situation of the time.
Octobre’s self-titled album, released in 1973, would introduce many into the horrid situation Quebec was in at the time. Most notably the October Crisis of 1970, which would result in the assassination of Quebec’s Labor Minister Pierre Laporte. These particular incidents, along with the reluctance of the local government to do much about the situation angered many; Flynn was one of the many.
Recorded on a shoe-string budget, Octobre
was rather short, clocking in at twenty-eight minutes. As far it was concerned, that was more than enough time to convey the band’s message, and left for absolutely no time to waste on the typical progressive rock tropes. The main focus was getting the point across, which was well done. Behind the message was the excellent work done by the band: Mario Legare’s fluid bass work, as well Pierre Hebert’s stunningly accurate drumming held the compositions by Pierre Flynn together. Not to mention the edge guitarist Jean Dorais brought to Octobre’s music.
Songs such as La maudite machine
(The Damn Machine), and Les Vivants
(The Living), would show many the great anger welling within the band, and would inspire a younger generation of French-Canadians to speak out against the local government. Throughout the album, there are vague hints of folk-rock, most notably on Au fond de tes yeux
(Deep in Your Eyes) and Bonjour
(Hello), which brings up comparisons to fellow Quebec band Harmonium. There are also touches of influences by Gentle Giant and Genesis on tracks like Ca prend presque rien
(It Takes Almost Nothing), which further displayed the band’s intent on causing change in Quebec, one way or another.
With the exception of a few weak moments, Octobre
made for a staggering debut unlike any other. The folk-rock influences would eventually phase out, but for the time being, it would have to remain while the band searched for their voice. The aggression of the band’s music can only give a vague idea of what was going on at the time, and to make it more confusing to some, it was entirely in a foreign language. But language truly doesn’t matter; only if you can immerse yourself into the world of Octobre will you understand what happened. And maybe the music will accompany you in discovering the story of the people of Quebec, and finally understanding the message the band tried to convey forty years earlier.