Last Night On EarthAlbum | Noah and the Whale By Stewart Mason
UK folk-rockers aim for the charts and miss.
Artists usually try to at least pretend that they're not selling out, but Noah and the Whale couldn't be any more obvious if they put a big brass ring on the front sleeve of their third album. After backup singer Laura Marling left following their debut, singer-songwriter Charlie Fink wrote a deeply personal, haunted album about their relationship's dissolution, The First Days of Spring, that compares favorably to Bill Callahan's most soul-baring work. However, that album bore no hits on the level of their early success "Five Years Time," and apparently Marling's surprise mainstream success (and that of the stylistically very similar Mumford and Sons) stuck in Fink's craw. As a result, Last Night On Earth almost entirely dispenses with the UK folk-rock vibe of Noah and the Whale's previous work in favor of a weak modern approximation of '80s AOR that's even more misguided than Arcade Fire and The Killers' dabblings in that sound. Shooting for Bruce Springsteen but hitting -- at best -- Rick Springfield, songs like "Give It All Back" and "Tonight's The Kind of Night" are soulless Top 40 pandering with trite, cliched lyrics. Worst of the lot is the horrid single "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.," on which Fink -- a genuinely talented lyricist -- sinks to the wretched level of lines like "She's a rock'n'roll survivor with pendulum hips." Frustratingly, hints of Fink's potential occasionally peek through the overproduced tunes, but if this works and the band scores a hit, it may be the end of a once-respectable band.