Nine Black Alps - NBA Preview

Stephen Bray 05/10/2006

Coming onstage at 11:15, Nine Black Alps were forced to soundcheck in front of what remained of the Archie Bronson Outfit audience, and there were quite a lot of them.

The first track was upbeat punk-pop with urgent lead guitar lines. It contained vocal refrains of “Get faster, cut deeper,” and “Always the same.” The vocals themselves were less harsh than usual, although the bass line managed to stick firmly to traditional Nine Black Alps territory. The lead guitar line effectively carried the song until the point where the track eventually kicked in, and the whole thing sounded more like the Nine Black Alps that we're used to. Definitely a strong album track, but not a single.

“Without A Trace” begins with a heavy, thumping drum intro and a first line of “You, you're so polite”. It's main vocal refrain was, “Forget my name, forget my face / You're all the same, the human race.” The guitars were harsh throughout, with a very jagged sound. The riff is powerful and drives the whole song along. It's led by both guitar and bass. The vocals are venomous and typical of NBA's usual angry, grungy style. This could conceivably be a single - indeed, it's reminiscent of earlier, less commercial singles such as Not Everyone.

The third track is led by ascending guitar lines and sounds like Ash, circa the Meltdown album. This is conceivably another single. The song features good, strong melody on the lead guitar lines. The main vocal line on this is, “Baby come down, I'll be your friend / and show you around 'til the bitter end.” The middle eight moves up a little in tone. Singer Sam Forrest tackles the guitar solo and sings the chorus in a very Americanised accent.

“Famous” showcases the traditional 'second album' angst of many bands, with its hookline of “It's such a drag to be famous.” It's generally radio-friendly punk, but is very generic, despite its thrashy guitars. Perhaps it could be another single. It's another song with angry vocals and Sam once again tackles the solo.

The fifth track is introduced as “another song we can't play”. It has an insistent riff and is not a likely single. The middle eight is surprisingly soft and somewhat tender, providing a nice contrast with what has gone before. It picks up towards the end, however and eventually kicks back into a lighter version of the verse. The hook line to this tune is, “You're always dramatic, playing the fool.”

Track six is one that they wrote 'on Friday'. Up to last night, it had been played five times. Each line of the first verse starts with the words, “I'm in love”, the second verse begins with, “I'm in pain.” It's a very loud, discordant tune. The vocals are yelled. Yet, despite this, it's still slightly more melodic than NBA's most grungy first tracks, but is still a return (of sorts) to that style, despite being more commercial and well put together. The chorus is a lot more cheerful and uplifting as it rises up out of the grungy noise of the verse. After this, Sam yells the lyrics until the end.

There are calls at this point for “Satisfied” but instead the band opt for another new tune, one called “Future Wife”, although Sam “can't remember how fast to play it.” A few seconds after the (very promising) intro, it stops because he plays the wrong chord. It starts again. It's a very melodic punk/pop tune, somewhat like Feeder. It's a very commercial, summery tune, and it's pretty different to their usual sound. The song is about wanting a better life with a perfect (future) wife, and that's what the chorus pertains to. It ends well too, with just Sam and his guitar.

At this point Dave and Martin swap instruments, whilst Sam explains how they've been holed up rehearsing in Ancoats for “the last month”. Dave begins a quick blues jam on the bass as the band get ready to begin

“Happiness in Satisfaction”, which is a song with a complex riff. It's poppy grunge, and not too commercial. “Can't help myself” is a refrain to this one. Another one is “Can't help it - it's just me.” There's a lack of chord changes on the verse, which results in quite an unusual sound. It's a short tune.

Dave and Martin swap back. Sam explains he's now “tired of playing guitar” and thanks everyone for “staying past your bedtime.”

The ninth (and final) track is probably called “Anything But This” and it begins with loud ascending chords with an oddly melodic guitar line. The rhythm's squarely in the bass on this one. The main refrain of this is, “I can't stand to see how you're talking like I don't exist / I can't stand to live without you, anything but this.” The chorus is NBA by numbers, but the verse is strong and somewhat menacing. It would suit being at the end of an album or, as it is, at the end of a gig. Sam continues to yell “anything but this” as the middle eight begins and as he steps on his guitar pedals (after drinking from a bottle of beer), some weird effects emerge. He also begins moaning like Kurt Cobain. There's a heavy, menacing beat going on as we had to a breakdown featuring just drums and the title line. The last occurrence of the line is whispered before the song kicks in again, very hard. The title is yelled a couple of more times 'til the end of the song and, with a “See ya”, they're gone.