Another week, another debut album arrives from a hyped up band – in this case, Manchester’s Nine Black Alps have been hailed as Britain’s answer to US alternative rock legends Nirvana and Pixies, and this record arrives on the back of a clutch of impressive singles and a storming live show. In other words, they’ve got a lot to live up to – not least the fact that they got signed to Island after only a handful of gigs, which enabled them record this album in Los Angeles with Foo Fighters/Beck producer Rob Schnapf.
So is Everything Is the album to vindicate them and set them apart from the hoi polloi of British rock, thus enabling them to establish themselves as a band of true international calibre? The answer to this is an affirmative yes, in the main – when they hit the right notes, the results are brilliant.
But on the other hand there are a couple of tracks on here that should have remained on the cutting room floor. This is frustrating, because it’s so nearly a great album. As it is, we’ll have to settle for merely very good, with the knowledge that Nine Black Alps are going to be rocking around for a long time to come.
The thing is, this is what they do best. There are 12 tracks on here, the vast majority (10) of which feature heavy, slashing riffs, robotic drumming and aggressive, Kurt Cobain like vocals.
Early release and best track on the album Cosmopolitan, seemingly a vicious attack on those image obsessed types in our society (“You’re not pretty enough, you’re not skinny enough!,” “You’re not burning enough of your body to be loved!”) is a case in point – it’s a two and a half minute barrage of guitars that while being remarkably polished, still manages to exude the raw energy and urgency of bands like At The Drive-In or Queens Of The Stone Age – a huge compliment if ever there was one. It’s one of those tracks that can make a band on its own – it’s that strong. To compare them to Foo Fighters (and they will appeal to a similar market), its got Monkey Wrench written all over it.
Elsewhere, there’s plenty more to get excited about. Recent single Not Everyone, their biggest nod to Nirvana to date (It sounds much like On A Plain), features an addictive and rather incendiary riff and a hook that’s so insistent it’ll stick in your head for ages after you’ve heard it. The thunderous Ironside and the adrenaline rush of Just Friends serve to prove that this is a band who know their way round a great rock tune and a big chorus, a talent never to be underestimated.
There’s even one of those good old power ballads thrown in for good measure – Unsatisfied sees them veer into college rock territory, and has radio smash written all over it much in the same way as Learn To Fly did, for example.
As for the quieter tracks (Behind Your Eyes, Intermission), however, the results are less pretty. They feature gentle acoustic strumming and hushed vocals that don’t seem to serve any purpose apart from disrupting any momentum that may have been built up. They’re pleasant enough, but they detract from the magnificence of some of their heavier moments.
But this is pedantic nit picking, in essence this is a very accomplished debut that bodes much for the future. Are Nine Black Alps the new Nirvana? Unfortunately not. Are Nine Black Alps an exciting new British guitar band? Most definitely – and for now, this is more than enough.