Manitoba is a highly underrated province as far as music goes. When you think of Canadian music, you’re usually thinking firstly of Toronto for its musical contributions and the presence of the major industry there, then Vancouver and Montreal to lesser degrees. How many times do you hear, in the context of the soundtrack of the Great White North do you hear Winnipeg or Manitoba brought up in comparison? The dead middle of Canada has proven to be one of the most legendary incubators for talent for well over 50 years with a thriving scene to prove it, and one of the acts that has been steadily growing within it is alt-rock outfit November Underground from Selkirk. Their live presence in and around Winnipeg has lead to comparisons to the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, City And Colour and Van Halen, and their newly-released eponymous debut leaves it to listeners to determine the strength of their foundation thus far.
“Burdens” centres around an endearingly muddy guitar track, offset by vocalist Kalyna Morrow-Litke’s clean vocals to create a delicately contrasted Dirt-era Alice In Chains meets Heart feel; something that did happen on Sap but is more explicitly articulated here. “Burrito Bear” sharpens the edge with its markedly more aggressive chorus, building up to lead guitarist Orvis Thomas busting out a highly Cantrellian solo. “Feelings” smacks of Alexisonfire sans George Petit, its acoustic dimensions reminiscent of early-00’s Foo Fighters as well; with that said, this post-hardcore/post-grunge pastiche could ring out bigger and louder on the hook than it does right now. “Balls Trippin’” comes off like an early demo for Velvet Revolver’s Contraband album (think “Spectacle”) with extra grungy, punky swagger that tilts it more towards Weiland than Slash, Duff et al. “Medicaide”, though with potential, suffers from the same curse as “Feelings” as far as its choruses go; should the chugging muddiness be exchanged for soaring chords and Morrow-Litke really go for it as far as belting the lines out is concerned, it could have great promise as a single.
“Dijon Longjohn” runs off of smatterings of “Interstate Love Song” but more textural and melodic, at first it seems almost too basic but builds into a fitting and logical simplicity over time. “Blue Papers” continues in this direction, albeit not baring any sort of resemblance to one song or band to the next but standing on its own as a straight shot of traditional alternative rock. “Heartsick” demonstrates the band’s dynamic blend with its tasteful acoustic/electric clash, turning the voltage up where it counts and throwing in enough grit to make it doubly interesting. “Bangereh?” is an energetic combination of stonery Queens Of The Stone Age riffage (“Little Sister”) and early Foo Fighters (“I’ll Stick Around”), while the closer “Petersfield Tuxedo” is a bit more verstile; very much rooted in the grungy doldrums of “Bangereh?” with some resemblance to Silverchair (“Israel’s Son”) while maintaining leanings towards the raw garage rock of Jeff The Brotherhood (“Bummer”).
What November Underground’s debut shows about them at this stage in their careers is that they are a relatively new band in the midst of finding their identity. There are inklings of future calling-cards here and there, from their catchy choruses, textural diversity and finely-channeled ‘90s attitude. Still, there is no clear “November Underground” sound just yet; thus far there is a collection of very clear influences and a reservoir of untapped potential. If some choruses and various other instrumental parts can be amplified to the degree they deserve, then you will start to see this band come into its true, awaiting form. Until then, it will be fun watching them discover these new parts of their collective sonic being and grow.