Friday, 29 April 2011

Noah And The Whale - Last Night On Earth (Album Review 2011)

When Noah And The Whale rereleased their debut single Five Years Time in 2008, the world was properly introduced to the music of Charlie Fink. After the well-publicised personal and professional break-up (Laura Marling) and the departure of brother Doug, Noah And The Whale is now a different beast. The follow-up to Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down may have been the ‘difficult’ second album but The First Days Of Spring serves as a noticeable progression for Fink and the band. The media can no longer label them ‘twee’ (or worse ‘anti-folk’) as third album Last Night On Earth completes this progression; the band emerging with a surprising collection of upbeat optimistic pop.

Last Night On Earth is packed with highlights from the opening song: Life Is Life pulsates with electronica, drum machine and buzzing synths, the first line setting the tone for the entire album: ‘You used to be somebody, and now you’re someone else…’; Fink starting the tale of disillusionment and wanting a fresh new start. The piano is stunning throughout, right up to the choral ending. This is followed by the vibrant pop of Tonight’s The Kind Of Night, a curious mix of Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet and Deacon Blue’s Dignity. Again the theme is of leaving, starting again and taking control. Fink delivers another great line: ‘He can see that his debt is to experience only... and not to those who plan out his life’. To complete the opening trio, L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. (not too far from Love Of The Common People by Paul Young) combines excellent guitars with booming drums and an instantly catching chorus.

Wild Thing slows the album down and is more Velvet Underground than Bachman-Turner Overdrive. This is more small-town alienation and of feeling trapped with Fink recalling the story of a young woman who discovers she is a werewolf. Brilliant song writing with dense guitars and shimmering keyboards. Give It All Back is a new take on an old theme – school friends forming a band and dreaming of ‘making it big’ – and the nostalgia is clear through a brilliant delivery. Likewise Just Me Before We Met reflects on the past using a wonderful string arrangement and, in stark contrast, more keyboards. The calm reflection is transformed into energy and Fink delivers more great lyrics: ‘It’s better to live…than to hide’.

After the brief instrumental Paradise Stars, Waiting For My Chance To Come brings back the Americana (and owes much to Tom Petty’s Won’t Back Down) has more fantastic strings and guitars before what is quite a downbeat finale. The Line is a past relationship played out as a script – a neat idea that only suffers from a laboured outro with Fink declaring ‘I live my life like a diamond… bright and hard’ – one of the album’s only weak moments. The delicate choral piano ballad Old Joy is right from the Jay Spaceman back catalogue and could be twice as long. The arrangement is simple yet stunning and the closing words say it all: ‘Don’t dream of yesterday…’

Last Night On Earth is the third in an impressive trilogy of albums from Noah And The Whale. Fink draws upon (whether intentionally or not) a curious mix of Americana and Lou Reed introspection, transforming him and the band into something bold and interesting; adding a new reinvention of old tunes and melodies. Occasionally dragging up the past lyrically, he has moved forward musically – choosing to go somewhere else instead of descending into a pseudo-folk quagmire that is in danger of drying up entirely. If the next five years are anything like the last for Noah And The Whale then we should expect three more superb records of well-crafted pop songs and emotional twists and turns.

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