Nine Black Alps - Love/Hate

Tim Miller 04/11/2007

Rating: 3.5/5

Two albums in, and it's time to grow up for Nine Black Alps. Whereas their debut 'Everything Is' snarled and spat at the world regardless, 'Love/Hate' has taken a step back from the edge and considered things. Despite their roots being grounded in Manchester, the sunnier climes of Los Angeles have played a large part in the creation and production of this second album, and with it, Nine Black Alps move out of the shadows and, indeed, into the light.

Shorn of their darker past to some extent, 'Love/Hate' showcases the band growing into the nuances of their own music. It still rocks pretty hard in places, such as the QOTSA-tinged 'Heavier Than Water'; - not the only occasion when Josh Homme's homies are referenced here - all squalling guitars, put through numerous filters, and insistent rhythms. The single 'Burn Faster' dispatches lead guitars doodling in further feedback and an anthemic chorus, but it's a more rounded sound that emerges on 'Love/Hate', not least embodied in the mid-nineties rock of opening track 'Bitter End', with harmonious, jangly guitars and a smooth vocal in the Bryan Adams mould.

The songs are now more solid in structure, most finding time to indulge in a squeaky guitar solo, built on the grunge foundation of low-end guitars that continue to growl viciously, perhaps in protest at swinging through the somewhat straightforward songs. This is, no doubt, a subtle consequence of frontman Sam Forrest and the band's creative process blossoming on the West Coast: songs like 'Pet Hate' and 'Future Wife' pass through pleasant chord sequences akin to a similar laid-back approach to rock that Weezer had not too long ago.

Perhaps the high point, and defining moment, of the second album is 'Happiness and Satisfaction', a mellow and gorgeous tune that encompasses both a dissonant vocal line in the verse and a hopeful, yearning chorus of momentarily sublime songwriting. It displays Nine Black Alps' emigration into new territory; the extent to which Sam Forrest has succeeding in uprooting the band from their earlier path, and yet immediately after, the band retains that element of unhinged darkness, 'So In Love' sounding like the Gallagher brothers taking on Keith Flint and Liam Howlett in the tunnel from the latter's Firestarter video.

Where it is a minor departure from their previous sound, then, it is also something of a maturity. Nine Black Alps have lost some of their black-tinted heart - though not for one moment forgotten - in favour of a heavily credible rock sound that still, at times, emits their simmering, characteristic violence. It's a concrete rock offering; and in so successfully finding such a satisfying middle ground, Nine Black Alps' second album is unlikely to divide listeners into the extremes suggested by the title.

Released 29th October 2007