Friday, July 15th, 2005
I’ve been absorbing Manchester’s Nine Black Alps in pretty much every format imaginable. First with their “Cosmopolitan”/”Over The Ocean” 7″ (which was sent to me as a promo), then their full-length UK debut Everything Is in MP3 format and their self-titled EP (which came out this past Tuesday and was also sent to me as a promo) which collects a couple of UK singles as their introduction to the US market before the album is released here in the Fall. On top of all that, I was offered the opportunity to see them make their Toronto debut at the El Mocambo last night. Yes, someone wants me to like Nine Black Alps. Did it work? Let’s find out.
Already rising stars in the UK (for whatever that’s worth), Nine Black Alps don’t really bring anything new to the table but thankfully for them, lack of originality never stopped anyone from being a rock & roll star. Named for a line from a Sylvia Plath poem, this recent Spin Band Of The Day trade in fairly generic though of-the-now-sounding garage/punk rock that stands out for its occasionally irresistable pop hooks and relatively sophisticated lyrics, overall reminiscent of a less ambitious Idlewild. This is especially evident in the single “Cosmopolitan”, which is a ragingly infectious rant against the titular fashion magazine and the damage it does to the female self-image. No, really. However, it’s telling that I enjoyed each of their releases in amounts inversely proportional to their length. The 7″ was great, the EP was alright but less impactful and the full-length definitely sports some filler. You can judge for yourself – the EP is currently the record du jour at Filter’s MySpace Booth – you can stream the whole thing there.
So how did the live show compare to the recorded versions? Wish I could tell you. Conventional wisdom dictates that the headlining act goes on last, right? Last night – not so. I showed up in time to catch some of one of the opening acts (Jack & Ginger), but since the ElMo isn’t air conditioned and was fifteen kinds of stifling, I went to take a walk outside for what I assumed would be the second opener. Couldn’t have been gone for more than 20 minutes or so, but when I got back, there was a band onstage playing what I could only describe as reasonably tight rock of an early-90s, Pacific Northwest persuasion. Sounded alright and kind of familiar, but since it was barely 10pm at this point, it couldn’t have possibly been the headliners. Well actually it could have, because it was. Yeah. I caught maybe three songs of their set before they packed it in but I didn’t realize I’d missed them until the final band came on and they most definitely were not from Manchester (nor, I determined after one song, anything I needed to hear more of)… So yeah, this was their first North American date. I hope it went well, ’cause I certainly didn’t catch it. I hope the rest of their dates go better, though. Who puts the headliner in the middle slot? I mean really. Whoever organized this dropped the ball – if I’d paid for a ticket, I’d be cheesed. Obviously, no pictures.
But I can offer some impressions based on what I did see – I can say that while I don’t get the Nirvana comparisons that I’ve seen in record reviews, it does come across live. They are channelling the Grunge with a capital G, which I find a little disappointing. Not mad for that sound. I still think that they’ve got potential, but whether or not they realize it in a way that I like remains to be seen.
And while on the topic of British buzz bands, in a coincidental sort of corrolary to Wednesday’s post, Stylus has an essay on BritPop’s evolution into what would become known as “indie” in the UK, using Placebo, Catatonia and Belle & Sebastian as case studies/cautionary tales.
Lucinda Williams will be at Massey Hall on October 3. From what I’m hearing, October is going to be a great month for shows – hopefully it will make up for all the stuff I’m missing in September.
From the ‘Fork – some details on the next release from Grandaddy, the eight-track (as in eight songs, not the archaic audio media, though I wouldn’t put it past Grandaddy to do that) Excerpts From the Diary of Todd Zilla EP. Due out sometime in the future.
Know what’s fun? Riding your bike home in the rain and catching the front tire in a streetcar track and totally wiping out. That’s fun. But that’s okay, I didn’t need that skin on my elbow anyway. I’m generally sore all over and you should see the bruise on my thigh – truly a regal shade of purple. Majestic, even. On the plus side, however, the spill seems to have sorted out some issues I was having with my gears. It shifts like a dream now. Go figure.
np – Trespassers William / Different Stars