Snow Patrol marked the start of Alpinestars Richard Woolgar and Glyn Thomas’s serious assault on stardom, following a clutch of EPs and a limited release LP. As a single it was rather a fine effort, with mockney vocals over ’80s synths and an on-off beat that you could just about dance to. It wasn’t bad.
But as a concept, the trouble was always going to be with the title – both of the track and the act. Are they a ski patrol? Are they ski instructors? Or are they just blokes from Manchester who wish they were from central Europe?
While there’s much to be admired in actually trying to put across an idea in electronic music that isn’t just “dance your ass off”, the question still remained – what exactly was their idea? Because, as ‘White Noise’ proves, Alpinestars do not sound like Alpine stars of Europop yore. There’s no happy-go-luck cheesiness with which to redeem this record, just a serious intent behind technical capability.
And the problem of titles manifests itself again here, for we have anything buy white noise on White Noise. As the album progresses and we listen to NuSex City, it, like Snow Patrol, thumps about and stops. Just possibly the late ’80s aceeeeed culture is at work behind the scenes here, and again you can nearly dance to it – a bit like New Order without the hooks. There’s nothing terribly wrong with it – but it doesn’t really go anywhere.
It tries very hard to be a holiday album as far as lyrics are concerned. Hotel Parallel is concerned with not wanting to go gome and wanting to “stay forever”. And Burning Up sounds like incidental from the soundtrack of Flash Gordon, rather than the Kylie Minogue song of the same title, before retreating back into loops and New Orderness. Like most of the tracks here, it does grow on you after a few listens.
The instrumental interlude that is Brotherhood gets scarily close to Air‘s territory without actually being Gallic, mixing digitised acoustic guitar into a wash of synths. It makes way for a rather more melancholy second half of the record, with Lovecraft, Crystalnight and Snow Patrol (part 2) all being distinctly pensive rather than the euphoric technofluff we’ve come to expect of Europop. And getting Placebo‘s Brian Molko along for vocal duties on the epic and brooding Carbon Kid adds to the effect of downheartedness that pervades the latter portion of the record.
White Noise is far from bad, but it is one of those albums that doesn’t easily fit a particular mood. Some of it will be great if you’re feeling up, but then parts will bring you down. If they can see where they’re going through the blizzard, their next album may work better, for Alpinestars have the potential to improve.