Written 24th April 2014
Nine Black Alps – Candy for the Clowns
The Band: Sam Forrest (lead vocals/guitar), David Jones (lead guitar), Karl Astbury (bass), James Galley (drums)
Saturday the 14th December 2013. A notable date for Manchester’s very own Nine Black Alps as they played a triumphant home-coming set at Manchester’s Gorilla to celebrate 10-years of the sounds, the tours, the blood, sweat and tears that were all part and parcel of being in Northern Hemisphere rockers Nine Black Alps. But alas the gig at Gorilla was only the start of such jubilations as the 4-piece band returns with this their fifth album ‘Candy for the Clowns’, released this week on Hatch Records, and the follow-up to 2012’s fourth album ‘Sirens’ (previously reviewed in Flynndie Reviews #32 here). Does their latest record continue their 10-year anniversary celebrations and offer further loud and fun sweet-tasting treats or do we end up with a nasty-tasting sour-sucker?
Candy for the Clowns
1. Novokaine2. Blackout
3. Supermarket Clothes
5. Something Else
6. Morning After
7. Come Back Around
8. Not in my Name
9. Destroy Me
10. Take Me Underground
Opening with a building high-pitched guitar riff before ripping into an industrialist rhythm ‘Novokaine’, which was previously previewed online before the album’s release, is a fun and loud opening track and shows the core sound of no-nonsense carefree rock that Nine Black Alps are all about while Sam snarls delivering its chorus “Hear me now/Call my name/Novok-aaaaine”. ‘Blackout’ follows with menacing guitars and rhythms before building to a big sounding chorus, another staple of the Alps’ trademark sound “Here comes the Blackout baby/Here comes the Blackout baby/Here it comes!” Another track previewed early online ‘Supermarket Clothes’ features a fast, frenetic toe-tapping melody and duelling guitars between Sam and Dave with some nice lines through its verses “There’s a place where I can make the scene/In the pages of your magazine/Pretty faces filled with snow white teeth” it’s a fast, upbeat track that flows smoothly.
‘Patti’ has been a recent live favourite on tour for the band and is driven by a fierce bass line by Karl and brutal percussion from James, making it the perfect formula for hot and sweaty mosh-pits. It’s another hard and fast track that pulls no punches while its lyrics paint a psychedelic, trippy ride “Spin like a top/Let your tired arms drop by your side/Take off your clothes/You can float/You’re as high as a kite”. ‘Something Else’ opens with a bass line solo before speeding along with guitars racing along faster than Sonic the Hedgehog in a Formula 1 car with the “So shine a light on me/So shine a light on me” chorus backed with a nice guitar solo giving the track a form of brief rest-bite between its high-octane verses.
Midway through the album we have ‘Morning After’ and this is possibly the standout track on the album for me personally. This is delightful, jangly Indie-pop while retaining a rocky edge and a nice, calming isolated rhythm to it. A real change of pace for the album so far, it’s a song that in my opinion highlights the often hidden charm that lays tucked away under Nine Black Alps armoury of heavy, industrialist, guitar rock sounds, while laced with poignant and tender lyrics “Lying in your bed with a broken wing and staring at a dying light/Everytime you speak the room would spin and everything is one big lie.” Next we have ‘Comeback Around’ which returns back to the band’s more familiar foot-stomping rock and overall this is a much more traditional Nine Black Alps track with them sounding much more like their material from their second album ‘Love\Hate’ here. With a punchy, head-banging rhythm ‘Not in my Name’ is vicious, no-nonsense scuzzy guitar-rock “Do what you want you can take it from me/I’ll be around do whatever you need” before the repeated track-title’s chorus sees Sam sneering “Not in my name/Not in my naaaaa-me!”
- Nine Black Alps rocking London’s The Borderline harder than a pissed-up rockin’ horse
The album calms down again with ‘Destroy Me’, another edgy-rock track that buzzes away hard like a bee overdosed on the amber nectar while ‘Take Me Underground’ is the most chilled track on the album, with a forlorn, shoe-gazer melody at its heart on a lazy summer’s day “So take me underground/I need no invitation/So take me underground/And win me over”. It sees the band dabble at US-style college-rock. Featuring some power-rock, closing track ‘Clown’ has quite an up-and-down rhythm about it, another track that burns and works away at the listener “And you always let me down/Yeah you always let me down/Make me feel like such a clown” it’s another busy, urgent track and sums up the overall mood and sound of the record.
10-years on and five albums in not many band’s nail shoe-gazing, fuzzy guitar-rock with the edge and verve of Nine Black Alps; their sound may not appeal to all tastes but they still remain a tight, full-on and no-nonsense, underground Indie-rock band laced with some subtle underlying melodies to their sound for good measure. ‘Candy for the Clowns’ is a tight little package and almost like a time-capsule of Nine Black Alps sounds over the past ten years, perhaps a personal note back to their fans? It doesn’t quite reach the heights of their excellent debut album ‘Everything Is’ for me but is still on a par with their more recent material and a nice follow-up album to fourth album ‘Sirens’ in my opinion and I will give this one 7 Novokaine’s out of 10 but would suggest if you’re all for a bit of carefree, heavy guitar-rock then you may find much more here to fulfil your sweet-tooth, candy appetite and would suggest to add an extra mark to this review score. 10-years on and Nine Black Alps are still celebrating and rocking hard and I didn’t mention the word 'grunge’ once in this review! Oh…
Standing in Supermarket Clothes
Track 1 ‘Novokaine’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SaGVP29bEA
Track 3 ‘Supermarket Clotheshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q7McsqmMoo
Manchester Gorilla 10th Anniversary gig setlist:http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/nine-black-alps/2013/gorilla-manchester-england-13c471e9.html