fri 29/05/2020

CD: Noah and the Whale - Last Night on Earth | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Noah and the Whale - Last Night on Earth

CD: Noah and the Whale - Last Night on Earth

Former nu-folkies find reasons to be cheerful from the Eighties

Poor Charlie Fink. First losing Laura Marling to Marcus Mumford, and then, last month, suffering the indignity of having to watch Mumford & Sons win Album of the Year at the Brits. Still, on recent evidence he’s the one with the real talent, and the confidence with which he changes style implies he knows it too. On 2009’s The First Days of Spring Fink had morphed from naive nu-folk into sophisticated Bill Callahan-style acoustica, and now he’s gone all Eighties pop-rock. Unsurprisingly for such a radical change of sound, Last Night on Earth has divided opinion, with the way people feel about it seemingly echoing their wider feelings about artists like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and The Psychedelic Furs.

But let there be no mistake, poppier for Noah and the Whale does not mean less substantial. Whether Fink’s talking about himself or about others, there’s always a sense that he’s trying to work out something very personal. Recorded in California, the songs use vignettes drawn from LA suburbs to evoke the optimism and occasionally the wistfulness of lives led in all strata of society. If on “Five Years Time” the band described the innocence and naivety of young love, and the sophomore album worked out the singer’s heartbreak, Last Night on Earth is about being wiser and yet still finding reasons to be cheerful.

The lyrics contain some cute moments such as, “His standard works of fiction about imaginary success/ The chorus girls in neon were his closest things to friends/ But to a writer, the truth is no big deal” ("L.I.F.E.S.G.O.E.S.O.N."), but they aren’t overly sophisticated. The album’s success really lies in the way they are brought to life by music as sweet as the soundtrack to a mid-Eighties teen movie, all synths, drum machines and Fink’s lugubrious vocals. The opener, “Life is Life”, has an exhilarated, elated quality. “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S O.N" reworks Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”, with melodic phrases borrowed from Paul Young’s cover of “Love of the Common People”. And the album’s most tender moment comes with Fink talking briefly in the first person, reflecting as he finds new romance (“Just Me Before We Met”). Like Eels last year, Noah and the Whale have succeeded in running an album of melancholy and despair straight into one of brightness and hope, and in so doing have made music that's genuinely uplifting.

Watch a video of the single "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N." below

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