Album Review: Noah and the Whale – Last Night on Earth

By on Wednesday, 9th March 2011 at 12:00 pm

You don’t usually think of Noah and the Whale and electronics in the same sentences. Charlie Fink’s songs, in the past at least, had no affinity to the buzzing of synthesisers. But their album released on Monday, ‘Last Night on Earth’, shows the London band take a step back from their usual folk pop mode to embrace a more commercial sound. Exhibit A: ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.’, the first single from the album, features the group’s trademark feel good harmonies on the back of a jaunty little pop number.

The pain and sadness associated with Fink breaking up with a kindred spirit in the form of Laura Marling (and possibly others?), more than adequately explored in 2008’s ‘Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down’ and 2009’s ‘The First Days of Spring’, seem to have been shaken off for this effort, as if happiness has finally risen out of the melancholy in his heart. Well, maybe not complete happiness, but there are definite signs of acceptance and sweeping moments of motivation that indicate that at least topically, the band has turned a corner. As a result, this album has a lightness that makes it instantly enjoyable both instrumentally and lyrically.

Think of songs like Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’, the Libertines’ ‘Time for Heroes’, the Eagles’ ‘Take It Easy’, Rod Stewart’s ‘Young Turks’: these are songs that live on long after their initial release, because people can relate to them and they give the listener a sense of brotherhood and belonging in its encouragement. And several songs on this collection of 10 well-penned songs seem destined for similar future canonisation as popular anthems. ‘Life is Life’ and ‘Tonight’s the Kind of Night’ beg for this kind of reception. Expect these to generate incredible response on the festival circuit this summer.

‘Just Before We Met’ is more readily recognisable as Noah and the Whale, a sweet love pop song; Tom “T-Bone” Hobden’s trademark fiddle also makes a welcome appearance here. With xylophone, ‘Give It All Back’ manages to be as sunny as ‘5 Years Time’, except this time Fink really tests his voice, and it passes with flying colours. The only song on here that does not have an immediate uplifting lilt is the slower, thoughtful ‘Wild Thing’, but it’s not out of anger or regret; it’s the acceptance that sometimes you have to let someone be free – not an easy task for the heart, but sometimes it’s something you must do.

The title of ‘Last Night on Earth’ sounds like the last chance, the last opportunity to make good, to make amends, to enjoy your last breath before you leave this life. In ‘The Line’, Fink asks, “is this the line / when I shine like a diamond?” Rather than choose a morbid route, Noah and the Whale have created what I’d venture to say will be 2011’s most optimistic, inspiring, life-affirming album. When you listen to these 10 songs, you won’t be able to stop smiling. Broadly. Well done lads.


‘Last Night on Earth’ is available now from Mercury. Noah and the Whale are touring in March, April and May. Charlie and Tom from the band discuss some of their influences, including Tom Waits, Tom Petty and Pulp, for making ‘Last Night on Earth’ in the interview below.


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