Nine Black Alps singer Sam Forrest has a problem. It’s the localised, small-scale attitude of modern indie bands: the assumption that the boring lives most of us lead are somehow more interesting if they’re written down and put to music. Or, as he put it: “I already know what the off-licence is like, and I also know what it’s like on a Saturday night. Why would I want to write a song about it?”
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.