Review Summary: 'Everthing Is' is a brilliant slice of energetic, intelligent and compelling alternative-rock.Everything Is
Nine Black Alps:
Sam Forrest - Guitar & Vocals
David Jones - Guitar & Bass
Martin Cohen - Bass & Guitar
James Galley - Drums & Vocals
1990s Seattle. Cobain. Grunge. Nirvana.
Now that’s out of the way I can get on with reviewing this, hopefully without relying on these tired cliches…
The British music press can be a funny bunch. It’s often as if they feel Britain owes the world another huge, era-defining artist to sit alongside the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin as one of the all-time music greats. As a side-affect of this many a band has suffered from the press’ over-excited approach to labelling and hype. In late 2004 Manchester’s Nine Black Alps became the latest group to become ‘media darlings’: ‘Cosmopolitan’ was named single of the week by NME and they were given the title of “the band most likely to save rock and roll forever”. No pressure then, especially considering this was a band that hadn’t even recorded their debut LP at this point. So how did the band respond? By creating a brilliant slice of energetic, intelligent and compelling alternative-rock of course.
Before going in to detail regarding the tracks it is important to mention a major factor in the album’s success: brevity. Clocking in at 35 minutes, with most tracks ending around the 3-minute mark, Everything Is
is a muscular statement of confidence unheard of in most debut albums. The main benefit of this is a total lack of filler tracks; every song has something to contribute.
Setting its stall out from the off, the album opens with Get Your Guns
, a song full of distorted guitar riffs and pounding drums. Angst is often a clichéd term within this genre but it’s the word that best sums up the general vibe of the song, and the album as a whole. Next up is the aforementioned single Cosmopolitan
, which opens with a fairly simple guitar riff before exploding into a fast-tempo yet melodic alt-rocker. This track also sums up the album’s lyrical approach: well put together and delivered angst that sides more with the self-conscious than the typical ‘stuff you parents/society’.
The next three songs again add something different to the mix, contributing nicely to the flow of the album. Not Everyone
uses the classic quietish verses/loud chorus formula that often features heavily in this particular genre. Headlights
follows a similar pattern to Cosmopolitan
and features some driving drum-work, although the chorus isn’t as powerful. Sat between is the less in-your-face Unsatisfied
(although the bridge is fairly aggressive), which actually featured on US shows The OC and One Tree Hill. Strange. Anyway, Unsatisfied does a good job of hinting at a more emotional side to Nine Black Alps that can be found later in the album.
Yes, nestled among the powerful rock tracks are two sweet acoustic songs that seem to have been positioned in order to segment the album. The first is Behind Your Eyes
, an up-tempo ballad that has a real country vibe, whereas the second, Intermission
, is much more sombre and downbeat sounding. In both cases the calming nature of the acoustic guitars makes the following barrage of distortion and noise all the more effective. Behind Your Eyes
is followed by Ironside
, perhaps the heaviest song on the album, which features all four members of the band really going for it. Intermission
on the other hand precedes album closer Southern Cross
, another rocking track that provides the album with a nice sense of closure. But this also happens to be one of the few faults I can find with the album, although Southern Cross
ends well, its just lacks that real epic feel that would have made Everything Is a true classic (dare I whisper Something In the Way?).
Semi-title track Everybody Is
builds up with an initially strange sounding riff, before being joined by gurgling bass and the usual powerful drums. It also has some cool vocal harmonies around the chorus and bridge of just distortion and feedback. Which songs have I got left? Oh yeah, two of the best ones. The one-two double hit of live-favourite Shot Down
and final single Just Friends
is a formidable one. Both songs edge towards the poppier side of the spectrum, with a great solo/catchy riff and chorus respectively. For me these two songs are the definite highlights of the album and deserved to propel the band into further levels of success.
For fairness’ sake: any other cons? I’m struggling, but am willing to concede that the album isn’t as varied overall as it could have been, although this isn’t a problem if you love the music in the first place. I suppose you could also argue that it borrows heavily from a certain band beginning with N, but that’s more a statement of that band’s influence than anything.
So, I’ve reached the conclusion paragraph and have just realised that maybe the hype was justified after all. I can’t help but feel if ‘Everything Is’ had come from 1990s Seattle before the death of Mr Cobain, Nine Black Alps could possibly be up there with Grunge kings Nirvana.