Many of you will remember the Ark builder and his sea dwelling mammalian friend from the huge success of 5 Years Time, which sold a boat load of copies and reached number 7 in the UK singles chart in 2009. They then released their second album ‘The First Days of Spring’ and then…..all quiet. Perhaps singer Charlie Fink was licking his wounds over his break up with (now super-famous Brit Award winner) Laura Marling, and her the subsequent departure from the band
Well, the Twickenham boys are back with a bang with ‘Life is Life’. They’ve shaken off the pain, sadness and melancoly of 2008′s ‘Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down’ and 2009′s ‘The First Days of Spring’, and seem to now be, glory be, happy! Well, maybe not completely happy, 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.
The change is immediately apparent on opener ‘Life Is Life’; “And it feels like his new life can start, and it feels like heaven’” begins with a lapping synth arpeggio and drum machine sputters before building up to big buzzing synth chords, echoing grand piano, and, for good measure, a gospel choir. Think of songs like Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’, 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.
On the first single taken from the album, “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.”, Fink aims for a kind of Tom Petty/Lou Reed story-song vibe, with broadly painted characters (“she’s a rock and roll survivor with pendulum hips”) and a classic Americana sense of the possibility in the great wide open, even one littered with cautionary tales.
‘Just Me 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 new optimism reaches its zenith on ‘Tonight’s The Kind Of Night’ which is s life-affirming, euphoric and beautiful. On more than one occasion you get to a chorus, think it can’t go any higher, and up it goes. And all that detail is coupled with direct, undeniable and uplifting hooklines: “The night outside is five below, His heart is pumping blood/On his lips a perfect smile, His eyes begin to flood/ Because tonight’s the kind of night/Where everything could change”
Noah and the Whale have created what Never Mind says will be 2011′s most optimistic, inspiring, life-affirming album. It will make you yearn for the simpler times of ‘fun fun fun in the ‘sun sun sun.’ It will keep you smiling. Broadly. Well done lads.
Buy it here
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