Perhaps it’s just a romantic notion of the creative process, but I like to think that by listening to a song you can imagine what was going on when the artists were recording their music. For me, the Beatles were gobbling handfuls of pills and doing tai chi while recording “Tomorrow Never Knows.” In between takes on “Welcome to the Terrordome,” Professor Griff and Chuck D slammed Bush Senior’s domestic policies and told Flava to “leave them alone and get a real job. And a fucking watch.” I’m still waiting for Britney Spears and Jennifer Love Hewitt to record an album together.
After listening to White Noise, I don’t know what was going on while they were recording, but I want a helmet and reassurance that I’m not hallucinating before I go in that sound booth. Sirens are blaring, vocoders are flying around, six people are banging on one set of drums, a beret-clad hipster is plucking his acoustic guitar, some guy with a Flock of Seagulls haircut is smoking and poking at synthesizers — all that’s missing is a melting clock.
While that kind of madness can result in tremendous music (see The White Album) the results on White Noise are hit and miss. The hypnotizing guitar loop on “Burning Up” provides a simple background for a growling bass line and the occasional electronic noise; “Hotel Parallel” sounds like it was recorded by a gang of drunks in Spencer’s Gifts. “Crystalnight” is a brooding, sexy tune that could have easily been recorded by Air and belongs on “Songs to make out to” mixes across the country; “Snow Patrol Part 2” is a mellow improvement on “Snow Patrol Part 1,” but give us some credit. Alpine. Snow. We get it. Please move on.
“Carbon Kid” is a fantastic juggernaut of a song, and it’s only a matter of time before it ends up on a Mitsubishi commercial. Its infectious refrain makes no sense (“You’re a Carbon Kid with a sinister diagram!”) but you’ll scream along anyway. But then they go and name the last track “New Ice Age” and I want to brain them with my Rossignols.
Had White Noise come out before Moby’s Play, Alpinestars would be looking at some serious MTV time right about now. The album isn’t bad; it’s just that I already own about six copies of it. They include a remix (isn’t that what B-sides are for?), and you get the feeling that the danceable tracks will end up on a compilation CD, the title of which will definitely contain an exclamation point, the commercial for which will run right after “Girls Gone Wild in Winnipeg.” Ultimately, Alpinestars bring catchy but derivative electro-pop to an audience that’s already been flooded with more polished competitors.