Nine Black Alps

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Sirens Review

by Daniel Clancy

Ever since their 2005 debut, Everything Is, Nine Black Alps have waved their grunge influences over their heads like a plaid shirt on a stick. Love it or hate it, in a world of musical experimentation, innovation, and Coldplay collaborating with Rihanna, it’s refreshing to know that a band will refuse to change their stripes no matter how tried, tested, and in some cases, perfected, their formula may be. Sirens, the fourth album from the Manchester four-piece, begins with three tracks that exemplify this point. “Be My Girl” jumps out of the blocks with distorted power chords and a catchy hook that falls somewhere between early Vines material and the Subways. “Don’t Forget to Breathe” and “My One and Only” follow suit, reaching for the sonic heights Nirvana once climbed to, but perhaps all too openly and self-consciously. It’s not until we arrive at the solemn bounce of “Phosphorescence” that we hear a band finding a formula that takes them out of the Seattle spotlight and on to more familiar pastures. Injecting a homegrown Mancunian element into proceedings, it proves to be an unexpected highlight, an encouraging sign that experimentation can pay dividends. Elsewhere, the sweet acoustic ballad “Waiting Room” is yet another welcome departure, with Sam Forrest’s snarl replaced with a gentle, reassuring tone as he tells us “I’m so sorry to hear/That you got so near/Fell down way too soon.” But “Living in a Dream” once again lifts the tempo and level of noise, this time successfully and at lightning speed -- think “Territorial Pissings” -- with the band sounding their most confident and joyously effective, proving the old formula can still work too, while “Away from Me” is a superbly crafted indie rock number that gives a gentle nod in the direction of Foo Fighters circa 1998. There is an element of relief that comes when hearing that the guitar work from Forrest and David Jones still has the cutting edge that began the Nine Black Alps journey, but Sirens perhaps works best when it’s not totally in thrall to grunge and the band allow themselves to enter unchartered terrain.

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