Labels, genres, scenes, styles…they are tricky things to work with. Even ones with the prefix “alternative” seem to pigeonhole an act every bit as rigidly as whatever genre they are defining themselves against. That’s what makes the alt-rock title so limiting. By most people’s reckoning, Oblivea would fit easily into such a definition but I would argue that such a label is not even half the story.
And new single, The Crash, now out via Bongo Boy Records, is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Sure, it has the dark and delicious vibes that you would expect, it was the weight and the grunt, the look and the feel of everything pure alt-rock. But wait, that spiralling guitar riff that runs through the heart of the song is pure Van Halen and a more classic rock sound you would be hard to find. There is also accessibility and infectiousness that you rarely find done this well in the genre, an addictive quality that certainly isn’t pop but which seems to have learned a thing or two from the music made in that quarter. Let’s just say that the song has pop awareness.
There is something slightly “on the edge” about the song, between the more controlled verses there are interludes which feel slightly off-kilter, the sound of a band pushing into oblivion and just about managing to keep everything in check. This quality and the grating, grinding, abrasive nature sends the song in a slightly more industrial direction and the overall brooding nature of the track hint at some more gothic strands to be found in its DNA.
See what I mean? If this is alt-rock, it is alt-rock with a lot of caveats. And the less it fits comfortably into the modern rock soundscape, the more I love it. Rock was never about fitting in, never about playing by the rules, even those that were made by the rock genre itself, then again, most labels, rules and modus operandi were made by lazy journalists and music writers and you can’t trust those guys (I should know, being one myself.)
The Crash is a great song, one that will tick a lot of boxes across the music spectrum. The more rebellious rock fan will love its outsider sound and break-out nature. The more discerning goth will love its shaded qualities. The classic rocker will warm to the spiralling riffs and coiling guitars. The more discerning pop picker will be beguiled by its accessible charms. The more industrial and experimental rock fan will dig its grating and abrasive nature.
It takes a smart band to be both outsiders and yet have mass appeal, to be both commercially viable yet cultish and underground but somehow, Oblivea have pulled it off.