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Noah & The Whale – Last Night On Earth

"Last Night On Earth"

Noah & The Whale – Last Night On Earth
15 March 2011, 13:00 Written by Antonio Rowe

Theres an irrepressible sense of youth-minded excitement, but ultimately naive wanderlust that’s impossible to evade when listening to Noah And The Whale’s third outing Last Night On Earth. It’s the feeling that we all often experience during our later adolescence – great things are happening all over, monumental life experiences are to be had, but for some reason or another they’re far far away in a non-exsistent excitement fuelled utopia. This sudden urge to up-sticks and travel as far away from the nest is rather understandble. After being surrounded by the same familiar faces and places for years, no matter how many great memories we have, some of us begin to feel claustrophobic, almost trapped by home comforts, and the neccesity to become independent and break out becomes more and more apparent.

This is in many ways the sound of a band breaking out. With yet another new line-up but a first time sauve dress code, it’s the moment the band finally wave goodbye to everything Marling and folk-pop; gone is the string-laden self-reflectory bleak lament for an ex-lover and in its place is an momentary essence of perennial optimism.

There’s an arm-long list of literary, filmic and musical references that Charlie Fink has cited as influences in various interviews from Lou Reed circa Berlin to David Lynch’s dark sprawling narratives to Charles Bukowski penned poems. Yet the reference of Bruce Springsteen’s rousing soft-rock seems more prominent in relevance, with everything sounding a lot more ‘meatier’ in comparision to their understated beginnings. ’Tonight’s The Kind Of Night’, ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Give It All Back’ are all brillant byproducts of excessive Springsteen listening, in particular ‘Born In The U.S.A’ and ‘Darkness On The Edge of Town’. It’s all gospel choirs, blaring synths and perpetually emotive guitars. The pharse ‘luxurious studio treatment’ springs to mind.

The strength of Springsteen’s influence is even more potent in the LP’s lyrical consensus, most bands may run the risk of being too patroichial with the theme of youth. However, like Springsteen, Fink is a great storyteller - his lyrics are well-observed, relatable, and more importantly – real. Well at least they feel real. His words have an almost universal and timeless quality, instead of feeling like self-conscious clever wordplay they’re more like sung extracts from bygone thoughts and conversations.

The couplets sung on ‘Life is Life’ perfectly encapsulate the contradictory mixture of self-loathing and ambition we all often feel as young people: “Left his house at midnight resolute and young/ in search of something greater than the person he’d become.” And on ‘That’s Just Me Before We Met’ the lyrics are of a overheard discussion between a romantic raconteur and his/her lover: ”And all the bad haircuts and smoking cigarettes / lustless romantics try hard to impress / well that’s just me before we met.”

Paired with the radio-friendly sound, to some it might come across as a bit calculated, targeted to smash through the top 40 stratosphere. But lest I remind you of Fink & Co’s decision to bid farewell to a genre that they arguably once dominated, just as it appears to be having a mainstream and critical breakthrough (Marling’s Brit win and Mumford & Sons transatlantic success).

For all of its imagery of Americana – Route 66, wide-open highways and wind blowing through your hair - it’s really a record talking about the power and vulnerability of being young. And in times where prospects for the young never looked so bleak, Noah & The Whale have created a much-needed hook-heavy AOR escape, one that resonaces with it’s pathos, and sends home the message that being young and reckless doesn’t always have a price.


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