There are plenty of things that have been painted black to make the cut in rock ‘n’ roll. Crows, Keys, Flags, Mountains, Rebel Motorcycle Clubs and a guy named Frank have embraced the color void of any color because of its direct association with rock. Manchester’s Nine Black Alps have wholeheartedly asked to join this alliance. (The band’s name decision has no association with who the members are emulating; it’s a line from a Sylvia Plath poem, one dark enough to do the trick.) With this debut EP on Tiny Evil and a recently released full-length, Everything Is, on Island stateside, these boys are simply waiting for the success train.
Nine Black Alps weigh in with the typical four-musician setup and get bonus points for coming from the land of pop icons such as Oasis, the Smiths and New Order. Now add two of their EP’s five songs recorded by famed rock producer Rob Schnapf (Beck, The Vines) to the mix, and we have what looks like a determined band making all the right moves. These songs show the beginnings of what could be a tremendous commercial success: a little rock and a little emotion.
Unfortunately, the EP shows very little originality, and in a genre that’s cluttered with wannabes, this could be a real kink in the Alps’ plan. Tracks such as “Composition” and “Shot Down” are typical modern rock songs, a la the Strokes and the Killers, with their simple guitars and just-enough-attitude vocals. Although they try to distance themselves from their fellow statesmen, they fall into the slump of general mainstream radio, though they land on the better half of the spectrum. Nine Black Alps’ EP proves that it’s not all in a name. It’s more in what you do, how hard you work and how lucky you are.