NINE BLACK ALPS – Nine Black Alps (Island)
I bought this album unheard on the strength of a positive review in the NME, and not only did they get it right for a change, they actually undersold its brilliance. This is exactly the sort of racket that I expect from a new guitar band – great tunes, loud guitars, singalong choruses, and a swagger of knowing just how they want to sound and sticking to it. ‘Get Your Guns’ starts off promisingly with riffing guitars and grunge attitude, but when the chorus kicks in it takes the song to a new high. It is instantly addictive and makes you want to play the song again straight away just to make sure you were hearing it right. It is the sound of the Kaiser Chiefs and Maximo Park fed through a mincer and spewed out at the feet of Black Sabbath. Riff-laden intro follows riff-laden intro, every song has a chorus that Nirvana would have killed for, and even the quieter tracks have a melodic sensibility about them that you do not expect. Last single ‘Unsatisfied’ should have been huge, having a radio friendly chorus and enough power to attract Green Day fans, while at the other end of the spectrum we have ‘Behind Your Eyes’ which is a lovely acoustic ballad. The peace doesn’t last for long, however, as ‘Ironside’ kicks in with another killer riff, and while ‘Shot Down’ is more straight ahead rock, it still has twists and turns in the chorus to keep it above your average indie song. ‘Intermission’ is another acoustic guitar/vocal song which, strangely enough, does not sound out of place at all amongst the mayhem of the rest of the tracks. The album ends on a high with ‘Southern Cross’, another storming rocker, with one of the heaviest riffs on here, and a descending chorus line which shows that the band are not just two chord wonders. I probably say this at least once every column, but this is the best debut album that I have heard for a while (or at least in the last six months), and I just can’t stop playing it.