Alpine @ The Corner
Melbourne’s Alpine return home triumphantly tonight for the first of two sold-out shows launching A Is For Alpine, an album long-awaited by those following the band since 2009 and their incarnation as Swiss.
Befitting Alpine’s keystones of voice, indie pop and danceable songs, the evening’s supports showcase selected elements of each. Perth’s young Georgi Kay – a two-time WAMi winner in her own right – presents a strong contrast at first, alone with a guitar singing striking songs like Right Next To You in the melancholy voice of someone much older. Clubfeet, on the other hand, magnify the slick, dance-friendly aspects that occasionally appear in Alpine’s pop by a factor of 1000. Apparently comprised entirely of baristas, the Melbourne synth-pop troupe are nonetheless excellent crafters of hooks and grooves. They create the kind of cool, anti-perspirant indie dance that Holy Ghost! do so well; music that makes you feel like you need to be wearing a suit to fully appreciate. Lifting heavily from 2010’s Gold On Gold, they glide through highlights like Edge Of Extremes, D.I.E. Yuppie Scum, Count Your Lovers and Teenage Suicide, their smooth, rhythmic pop perfect backing for an evening watching movies adapted from Bret Easton Ellis novels. A Mac failure means we don’t get to hear a new track, but the band are so tight and accomplished, new songs and shows are worth looking forward to.
The word alpine conjures images of mountain climbers or mint flavoured cigarettes, but not necessarily the trilling, scalpel-etched pop of tonight’s thrilled-to-bits headliners. Fresh from the inking of a deal with US label Votiv, the six-piece are fully charged and ready to entertain a hometown crowd. Alpine’s co-frontwomen Lou James and Phoebe Baker launch directly into A Is For Alpine openers Lovers 1 and 2, their twin vocals reaching above the minimal four-four backing pulse like bird calls. Sticking to the album order, the glittering, sexy Hands is next; the song’s thrilling melodic bursts enhanced by James and Baker’s interplay. As co-singers they have a chemistry that clearly runs deeper than any t.A.T.u. hair colour comparisons. The birdlike dance moves sometimes seem like reenactments of a nature documentary, but this only adds to their onstage charm – something that alleviates the occasional weaker number (the Zurich EP’s Too Safe and Heartlove don’t quite reach the emotional intensity they strive for). As the musical engine of Alpine, the remaining four boys provide taut support, but James and Baker are the stars of the show. And rightly so.
Beginning with a few precise notes, the Foals-esque guitar and structural dynamics of All For One display the arty side of Alpine that sometimes hides under the pop halo. Both these sides are in full effect for Gasoline – easily one of their most accomplished tunes, and perhaps the most popular with tonight’s crowd. Seeing Red then leads into set closer Villages – a strong track and the one that perhaps most warrants the occasional Warpaint comparison (even though Alpine don’t evoke that band’s languid menace).
An encore, apparently titled Icy Poles, is a cheerfully twee, cute and inoffensive indulgence, right down to Baker’s mild rocking out on a guitar. The gig’s lasting impression is of Alpine openly enjoying their hard-earned and certainly-not-overnight success. Good fortune can be fleeting, but the talent they clearly have only promises even better things in the future.
BY TOPHER HEALY
Photo credit: Ben Clement
Loved: The avian courtship ritual dancing.
Hated: Clubfeet’s Mac crash ruining a preview of new material.
Drank: Pint bottle of cider. Everyone else had one so I thought they were on special. (They weren’t).