Release Date: Mar 15, 2011
Record label: Mercury
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Once again British indie-folksters Noah and the Whale have outdone themselves and created a beautiful, inspiring album that differs from their previous two releases while at the same time maintaining classic, familiar characteristics. Last Night on Earth is a mixture of upbeat pop tunes (“Tonight’s the Kind of Night,” “Give It All Back”), inspiring anthems (catchily enunciated single “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N”), and tranquil, casual melodies (“Wild Thing,” “Old Joy”) that all tell the story of what may be glimpses of your own last night on Earth. .
Charlie Fink's refusal to rest on his laurels is admirable. Over the course of three albums, he has steered Noah and the Whale from winsome folk-pop through confessional misery and now to smooth and shiny drivetime rock. One might have feared the results of this latest iteration, but Last Night on Earth is a sparkling piece of work. There's a misstep in Give It All Back, which hails "the kids who believed in rock'n'roll" only to mawkishly locate them in a school assembly, but even that song is saved by a fabulous arrangement, which – like many of the songs here – blooms in its final bars.
“Sick of being someone he did not admire / Took apart his old things, set ‘em all on fire” Have you ever been, like, really sad and then, like, really happy again? And during either of those times, did you get a synth for your birthday? This is my expert(ly facetious) analysis of the last couple of years in the life of Charlie Fink, writer-singer with London poptet Noah & the Whale, not that I’m in any position to speculate. Noah & the Whale, by the way, are the ones who followed up their radio-cosy debut LP Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down with – and excuse all this fourth-wall parkour, readers – one of the most tender and direct break-up records I’ve ever heard, The First Days of Spring, which was partnered by a full-length labour-of-love film conceptualised by the band that formed something of a scrapbook-in-motion of a relationship from beginning to end. And actually, Last Night on Earth – while almost deliberately the sonic opposite to First Days.
Question: in 2011, 10 years on from [b]‘Is This It’[/b], with Iggy still selling insurance (not a diss: fair play to him) and even that berk out of [a]Glasvegas[/a] having switched to white clothes, how in [a]Lou Reed[/a]’s name can anyone cling to accepted mediums of cool like the leather jacket, shades, trying to look like you’ve been doing nowt but smack/reading Kerouac/ having sleazy sex for a year, and going on about [a]The Stooges[/a]/[b]Mary Chain[/b]/whoever? If you do, be assured: you are not a rebel in any way, shape or form. You are clutching at hyper-conservative, tired ideals and are a massive bellend that only one person on earth thinks is ‘dark’ (her name is Fearne Cotton). You are also advised to steer clear of [a]Noah & The Whale[/a]’s third album.
Once a part of the buzzy U.K. folk scene that gave us Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling, Noah & the Whale ditch the old-timey vibe on their nifty third album, Last Night on Earth. On lead single ”L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.,” singer Charlie Fink adopts a whitedude rap delivery a la ”Loser”- era Beck, while ”Tonight’s the Kind of Night” rides a disco-gospel groove.
On The First Days of Spring, Charlie Fink mourned the absence of ex-girlfriend/ex-bandmate Laura Marling while the rest of Noah & the Whale churned up a sympathetic mix of folk and sad-eyed indie rock. Released two years later, Last Night on Earth finds the band recharged and redirected. “He used to be somebody, now he’s someone else… and it feels like heaven,” Fink sings on the opening track, a tribute to transformation that doubles as the album’s mission statement.
5 Years Time, Noah And The Whale’s first single, had ‘one-hit wonder’ written all over it. It barely registered the first time it was released in 2007, but a perfectly-timed summer 2008 release saw it hit the mainstream radio A-list. It ticked all the boxes: catchy to the point of contagion, a whistled lead melody that was infinitely more memorable than any of the lyrics, and something vague about “love, love, love”.
Full disclosure: I am actually a sucker for the whistling, uke-strumming, hand-jiving, oversaturated super-8 montage, matching-outfits twee of Noah and the Whale's breakout single "5 Years Time". Which I guess makes me part of the reason this crap winds up in car commercials. Sorry. But that song was animated by exactly how close it crept up to the line of preciousness without tumbling into full-on Pomplamoose territory, and even if it was only a trifle, nothing else on their first two albums came close to its sugary stickiness.
In 2009, Noah and the Whale released their sophomore album, The First Days Of Spring. To call it a maudlin album would be understating things. At least on their debut,Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down, songs like “Five Years Time” were wearing a smile on the outside, all sing-song dewy choruses and love-sickness. In contrast, the follow up album had metaphors about being a stunned fox waiting to become road kill.
There’s an intense, almost overbearing pop sensibility about Noah and the Whale. Previously known for charming, folksy indie pop, bandleader Charlie Fink (true pop musician that he is) knows what is in currently and also that a change of pace frequently gives fresh life to a band. Except on the London five-piece’s new record, Last Night on Earth, that fresh life is the not-so-fresh dose of kitschy 80’s synth-pop that seems to be getting rehashed every few minutes.
Album three bristles with a sense of hope and possibility. Mischa Pearlman 2011 There’s a certain amount of irony attached to the fact that this album is coming out after the success of both Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling at this year’s Brit Awards. Weird love triangle aside (Marling dated Noah and the Whale mainman Charlie Fink before stepping out with Marcus Mumford), the three bands have been associated with the spurious ‘nu-folk’ scene that also spawned the likes of Johnny Flynn and Emmy the Great.
Listening to Last Night on Earth, the third long player from London’s Noah and the Whale, you’d be hard pressed to find any traces of the same band that made 2009’s The First Days of Spring. Bruised, battered, and defeated from his failed relationship with folk singer Laura Marling, frontman Charlie Fink used that album as a vehicle for examining the crestfallen psyche known to set in on the heels of just about every maudlin breakup. Thankfully, Fink balanced out the pity party with songs about rebirth and redemption, embodied by lyrics that referenced both the vernal equinox and the blue skies above.
On Noah and the Whale’s 2008 debut, when Laura Marling was still a member of the band, they had a minor indiesphere hit with “5 Years Time,” a twee anthem replete with whistling and ukulele. The rest of Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down followed in the indie pop vein, with folk influences spread throughout. 2009’s The First Days of Spring was a more mature effort for the young band, with frontman Charlie Fink’s voice continuing to hold everything together after Marling’s departure.