Release Date: May 6, 2014
Record label: Hatch
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Nine Black Alps have always been a band that has pulled no punches in their approach. At no point in their careers have they ever allowed their blueprint to be manipulated by any of the contorted cycles that rock music dictates you to adhere to, perhaps sacrificing commercial success in the process. True to their steadfast cult, though, the Manchester four-piece have continued to produce LPs laden with fast-paced, easily digestible chunks of grunge-ridden rock, and are still to beat around any of your hydrangeas.
It’d be a bit of a stretch to say that Nine Black Alps ever had the world at their feet once, but there was certainly a time when the Manc quartet bordered on ubiquity; a decade ago, constant touring and some promising early recordings looked to have positioned them nicely for crossover success. The straightforward alt-rock sound that they peddled was commercially viable in an age ruled by the likes of Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Chiefs, but their guitars leaned unerringly towards grunge - a feat in itself remarkable for a band from Manchester, which was suffering from a hideous post-Britpop hangover that threatened to reach full-blown malaise. It’s not totally shocking that Nine Black Alps have slipped under the radar these past few years; unabashed guitar bands haven’t been in fashion for quite some time now.
If Nine Black Alps have made anything clear, it's that they're a band with a vision. Seemingly trying to create a point on a Venn diagram where the '90s in the U.S. touch the '90s in the U.K., the band merges the distinct sounds of the two scenes together, fusing the jangly pop of the Stone Roses with the driving grunge of Nirvana. With their fifth album, Candy for the Clowns, the band continue to tinker with the ratios on an album that finds them refining their hybrid sound.
Barring an almighty geographical upheaval and land mass reshape that’s likely to signal the end of humanity, it’s severely difficult for mountains to disappear from sight but you could be forgiven for losing track of these particular Nine Black Alps since their thoroughly enjoyable, if derivative, debut long player Everything Is in 2005. It will come as a shock to some that since their impressive emergence within a new wave of grunge – on this side of the Atlantic at least – Sam Forrest and co have released a further three studio albums. Love/Hate followed in 2007, with 2009’s Locked Out From The Inside gaining notoriety by being given away free for the first two months of its life.
“Nine Black Alps exist” reads the Facebook biography, and their message is clear: yes, we’re still here. No, the likes aren’t what they used to be. Fuck you. Things turn petty on ‘Supermarket Clothes’, however, when frontman Sam Forrest starts moaning about “a place where I could make the scene/In the pages of your magazine”, as though his Asda jeans and our cynicism was all that ever stood between Nine Black Alps and glory.