Alpine: Yuck

In an effort to appeal to a broader audience, Alpine diminish the flimsy post-punk mold of their debut effort in favor of haughty, cool detachment.



Label: Votiv
US Release Date: 2015-06-15

In an effort to appeal to a broader audience, Alpine diminish the flimsy post-punk mold of their debut effort in favor of haughty, cool detachment. That may sound like a contradiction in itself, but the Melbourne sextet is trying to move in two directions simultaneously -- further exploring the elastic guitar workouts of last year’s A Is For Alpine while providing an array of floaty, sun-kissed synths with an air of sophisticated panache. These are mostly pop songs in disguise, like that of receiving a callous kiss from a sweetheart whose loving thoughts roam elsewhere.

Which is to say that Yuck, their second effort, wants to provide an all-inclusive listening experience, but in its own terms. A feeling of resigned acceptance encompasses even the catchiest of singles, like in lead single “Foolish”, which cruises in easygoing exotica while front women Phoebe Baker and Lou James harmonize with certain dispassion, “You brought too much metaphor to the relationship”. The strummed acoustic guitar and fluttering digital symphony of the track does come excruciatingly close to evoking that of an Ultra-Lounge compilation, but in all fairness, it wouldn’t be Alpine if their sound doesn’t instantly strike up the image of lounging on a poolside chair with a posh attitude.

Unflattering onomatopoetic expressions aside, Yuck sure does sound exquisite. “Up for Air” adopts the stark luminosity of the recent R&B explosion, providing one of the album’s most direct and uncomplicated lyrical lines, “You’re the one who’s going to make me lose control”. It shows that Alpine does make the effort to try to expand their palette, as “Jellyfish” follows with a slow jam bound with multicolored atmospherics. Those globe-trotting influences remain intact, though, as the song transitions with some disaffected spoken-word utterances (“Stop beating myself up”) before it opens up into a seductive anthemic chorus that almost sounds like an ordered soccer chant.

Yuck shimmers with a certain plasticity that manifests itself thoroughly in its aqueous electronic flourishes, a quality that further enhances the “first world” concerns they were intent on exploring. “Damn Baby” slithers quietly with sequenced handclaps and a thumping synth beat before Baker and James warm up for another grand, horn-filled chorus: “Yeah / I'm here / and I’ve been willing to take this leap for a while”. “Crunches” is another one begging for singles potential, boasting a tropical beat and makeshift percussion elements as they continue to fuel their boy-crazy dissolutions. The track is swept up with a giddy momentum that is just utterly infectious, emphasized with such rhythmic verve that it’s easy to ignore the lack of substance at hand.

This supports the notion that Alpine are at their best when they come up with effortless sentiments that have been oft-repeated ad nauseum. The stilted language that plagues most of the verses in Yuck can be quite distracting and borderline incomprehensible, as if trying to decipher a Phoenix song; which can, in turn, become problematic, seeing as a moment that deserves dance-lead abandon can suddenly leave one looking up quizzically and with a furrowed eyebrow. One can take the wordplay as comically whimsical, perhaps even lost in translation, but the inventiveness in their electronic textures is handled with such care that it becomes secondary to the overall quality of the album.

That shouldn’t be considered a grave offense for Alpine. Yuck is a pop record through and through, after all, one that appeals with a radio-friendly and highly polished sound even when its slight electronic touches lend a playful and progressive edge. An overall sense of exclusivity permeates their blithe, sassy melodies, not to mention that its “adorableness” can occasionally irritate (cussing with fey charm is just so earnestly dopey). Still, Alpine’s transformation into a breezier, more cosmopolitan ensemble suits them. Now if only they didn’t think that they had it so bad.







The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.


Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.


Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.


Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.


Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.


Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.


John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.