While Nine Black Alps may not be about to save the musical world, they will definitely...
Chris Long 2007
If ever a band were never going to live up to expectation, it was Nine Black Alps. Despite sounding like a bunch of teens trying to be Nirvana, the band caused one of the biggest feeding frenzies that Manchester has ever seen when they got signed a few years back.
Hailed as everything from the saviours of post-rock to kings of their home-town, they proceeded to release a debut, Everything Is, that was - rather unsurprisingly - sturdy, enjoyable but utterly derivative.
Not reaching the impossible dream might have destroyed a weaker band, but the Alps are bigger and better than that. In many ways, Love/Hate should be seen as their debut as, having been plucked before they grew, it is the first album that sounds like them, rather than their idols.
There are still plenty of influences flying about, but they are better understood for the most part. That said, "So In Love" is a little to close to a Pixies off-cut for comfort.
Strongest amongst the new inputs is that of the American West Coast, where the band hung out during the making of the record. As a result, there are more tambourines and less screams, as the sunshine of California shines into the songs.
But it’s more than simply a locational thing. Last time, it was all angst, anger and angular guitars, and while that’s not completely gone, there’s a breeziness to the collection that points to a band that’s grown and begun to feel more comfortable with the whole process of record making.
Indeed, there are even brilliant pop moments – the acoustic break in "The Bitter End" or the rolling beat of "Happiness And Satisfaction", for example - that wouldn’t be out of place on a McFly album, though what Danny and the boys would do with the fiery squalling guitars of "Heavier Than Water", the angered anguish of "Burn Faster" or the beautiful exhaustion of "Future Wife" is anyone’s guess.
So Love/Hate lives up to some of those early expectations. It is an album of maturity, of ability and of inventiveness. It’s not without its problems, but it pushes through them, never getting bogged down in arguments of derivation and reinvention.
It doesn’t quite shine with glory, but it does sparkle, and it shows that, while Nine Black Alps may not be about to save the musical world, they will definitely make it better.