Interestingly the press release that accompanies Nine Black Alps’ second album begins with a quote from the Mancunian rockers’ frontman Sam Forrest, to whit: “The first album was shouting out of your bedroom window at the world… It was the album I had wanted to make when I was younger, Nirvana, Pixies, Sonic Youth and all. Whereas this album is where I am now.”
It’s a nifty bit of promotional footwork, claiming the mature high ground and predetermining what they fear will be the big criticism of this album: Why is it so bloody dull compared to your debut?
Me, I’m all for opening windows and having a good shout. And I’d far rather hear dark, skirling music inspired by The Pixies and Sonic Youth (although I think that’s a little bit of a stretch when describing Everything Is) than something that sounds more like it’s trying to jump on the flabby coat tails of the current indie scene. Harmonies just don’t suit these guys.
The opener, Bitter End, is undistinguished jangly guitar pop of the sort that makes you want to strangle someone. The second track, Burn Faster, has some echoes of their sharp and spiky edge, but it slips into bad harmonies as well. As the album progresses they do seem to be slipping back into old habits. Forget My Name has a whiney kind of aggression, with crisp drumming and an anthemic chorus, but it all falls apart with the acoustic opening to the final track, Under The Sun, which highlights all the vocal deficiencies, and hammers that final nail in by bursting into pomp rock recollections of middle period Pink Floyd.
Nine Black Alps’ first album Everything Is stood out because they were raw, driven; live they were a good guitar band, not so well schooled that they didn’t sound dangerous, but clearly in control and having fun.
This is not a fun album for all its West Coast harmonies and soft guitar licks.In fact heard blind I’d be hard pressed to identify the band. Very disappointing – I don’t mind difficult second albums, but I do object to dull ones.