Noah and the Whale Last Night on Earth Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

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. Yet, three years after N&TW released their debut album, Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down – one of the defining records of that movement – the Twickenham four-piece release an album dominated by synths and a healthy sense of nostalgia for Lou Reed and Brian Eno, just as the Brits turn the spotlight up on their contemporaries.

Yet it’s not as if this change is totally out of the blue. 2009’s sophomore effort, The First Days Of Spring – a stark, solemn, sombre affair inspired by Fink’s break-up with Marling – moved away from the twee whimsy of the first album, so, really, this is more a continuation of their natural evolution rather than a dramatic change. Still, the difference is dramatic. But it also serves an important purpose, by helping to set the emotional tone of this record far away from its predecessor. Whereas that record was dominated by personal heartache, this one bristles with a sense of hope and possibility.

The euphoric yearning of opener Life Is Life is the start of an upbeat, wide-eyed set of adventures that are as much metaphorical and metaphysical as they are real and physical – the characters here are all looking to move on, move up, move away, in mind as well as body. L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. is an updated retelling of Walk on the Wild Side with an added does of 21st century ennui, while Wild Thing adds a small coda onto the end of the story. There’s the joyful nostalgia of Just Me Before We Met, the wistful Waiting for My Chance to Come and the mesmerising finale of Old Joy, which begins slowly and tentatively, before bursting into a Technicolor expression of reinvention and rediscovery. It serves as a great metaphor for the band itself – for, in the wake of the Brits, while it may seem their timing couldn’t be worse, it actually couldn’t be better.

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