Saturday, 2 August 2008

Nine Black Alps, Love/Hate

Nine Black Alps, Love/Hate
Universal Island

The most terrifying three words a press release can ever contain are without doubt ‘recorded in California’. It’s become an unfortunate rite of passage for rock’n’roll bands to decamp to the Golden State and make a record that’s invariably described as ‘summery’, ‘optimistic’ and ‘Beach Boys-esque’. Yuck. Nine times out of ten it’s a catastrophically ill-judged decision, because a few tambourines and clunky harmonies do not a Pet Sounds make. Manchester grunge-grumps Nine Black Alps have taken a rather enormous risk in heading to LA to record their second album, Love/Hate – how can their trademark supersized riffs and strangled vocals handle an injection of sunshine?

Opening tracks ‘Bitter End’ and ‘Burn Faster’ are instantly reassuring: the Alps haven’t deemed it wise to break out the tambourines after all, but have been exploring a far wider dynamic range than on debut Everything Is. There’s less chunky riffage and instead a more experimental use of cobwebby acoustic guitars (on understated closer ‘Under the Sun’) and screeching amps (the riotous ‘Forget My Name’). ‘So In Love’ hurtles along on a super-crunchy psychobilly riff, its car crash climax making for an album highlight that bears no trace of its LA origins.

They’ve returned from California unscathed but with a finely honed pop sensibility that owes as much to the expansive sounds of 90s US indie as to the Alps’ primary influence, Nirvana – but don’t panic, for every subtle touch there’s an unhinged Wayne’s World moment for us to pour beer over ourselves to. C’est le rock’n’roll…


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