October ’71, FKA the Rob Stokes Band, is a Pittsburgh/DC outfit that cranks out fuzzy, scuzzy psych rock epics topped with a hefty dose of eccentricity.
Listening to October ’71’s new release, Episode IV, feels like being thrust into the middle of a Thomas Pynchon novel without reading the back cover summary (not that doing so ever really helps with Pynchon). A concept album about a 70’s house band enmeshed in a shadowy scheme, set against the backdrop of the Pirates 1971 World Series Victory, Episode IV features sprawling hip-hop verses (courtesy of DC’s Sir E.U), flange-heavy guitar licks, jazzy interludes, and Jim Morrison-style spoken word freakouts. “51 on Fire” kicks off with audio of an old news report; a weather/sports/generic announcer intones, “Baltimore has had its hands full, and then some, trying to handle Roberto Clemente…” before the band explodes into a gritty, hard-driving surf groove. Frontman Rob Stokes sings the first verse in a too-cool-for-detective-school monotone, his voice disconcertingly double-tracked, at times falling slightly out of sync with itself, before Sir E.U swings by for a stream of consciousness passage that sounds like its coming from a dingy phone booth down a dark alley. “51 on Fire” is the soundtrack to a surreal car chase, a period piece with all the details heightened to psychedelic levels. Give it a listen and find yourself transported.