Los Angeles punk crew hit a sweet spot between hedonism and poignancy on a multi-layered second album
Nine Black Alps
Yup, the name of Nine Black Alps’ second album has nothing to do with the tattooed knuckles of gnarly rockers. Instead, crucial to ‘Love/Hate’ is the belief that rock’n’roll is no less important a pastime than a battle across the stars for the salvation of all our broken hearts – not a punch-up at Heald Green train station. Happily, the musical ideas are as big as the thematic ones: moving on from grunge, it’s a fantasy fairyland of college rock and surf-pop – think The Lemonheads doing unseemly things to Gram Parsons with Teenage Fanclub videotaping.
Opener ‘Bitter End’ is as big-hearted a pop song as you’re ever likely to hear and, in a just world, their first smash. ‘Heavier Than Water’ is devastating desert rock. ‘So In Love’ is Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’ with a spray tan. ‘Happiness And Satisfaction’ is a surf-pop delight that borrows as mercilessly from ‘Shakermaker’ by Oasis as that does from ‘I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing’. And best of all is ‘Future Wife’, a psychedelic meditation on the nature of longing that reduces you to
a trance-like state by the second minute.
If ‘Love/Hate’ isn’t quite a landmark album it’s because it’s so comfortable that sometimes the band forget to sound like they’re trying. But there’s wisdom here. The people at the heavier end of society might dislike it for being proudly accessible, though for the rest of us it’s wonderful. Sam’s songwriting was never in doubt but now Nine Black Alps have made an album that’s worthy of them.
10 Tracks You Need To Hear This Week (2/9/2015)
Former Disney star enlists The Flaming Lips and Ariel Pink on a thrillingly weird surprise album
Abel Tesfaye's dark, twisted album is at odds with the glossy pop world he's been thrust into
The Cavan teenagers attack album two with abandon, largely at the expense of quality