Sound — 5
"The First Days Of Spring", the band's sophomore album, was utterly brilliant, and left fans like me highly anticipating the follow-up. Perhaps not surprisingly, N&TW have again undertaken a dramatic change in their sound. Before buying this album, most people will have heard radio favourite "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N." and expected an album of joyful tunes, harking back to the days of "Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down". But whilst the album is largely joyful, the sound is completely different. More electrics are used here than ever before, even the band's staple sound of lead string melodies are amped up at times, as in "Just Before We Met". Whilst this produces a unique and new sound, it just does not posses the simple charms of the band's first two albums. A lack of creative acoustic riffs, the over-presence of keys and less-than-dynamic drumming from the session drummer (following the departure of Doug Fink) create a sound that doesn't seem to know if it wants to be pop or alternative, and this uncertainty makes for a uneasy listen. Looking at it more positively, "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N." boasts a chorus you can't help but chant along to, and "Wild Thing" sounds like it could have been on the previous album, if only fewer synths were used. Another highlight "Tonight's The Kind Of Night" bobs along at a pace reminiscent of early Springsteen before reaching another impressive chorus.
Lyrics — 6
Charlie Fink has always been an excellent writer when it came to writing from the heart, evidenced by his earlier material. But much like the sound of this new album, the lyrics seem to have taken something of a turn for the worse. Whilst they are undoubtedly better than what you'll hear from most other mainstream artists, Fink somehow manages to make personal songs such as "Give It All Back" seem entirely un-personal, removing the charm that so endeared fans to him earlier. And maybe this is the problem with "Last Night On Earth". Whereas before Fink was writing about himself, his relationships, his life etc. He is now mostly writing about other people and personas. The personal touch appears to have been lost from the lyrics, which frankly is a huge let-down.
Overall Impression — 5
You can't fault Noah And The Whale for once again developing their sound, and I entirely commend them for that. My problem is that the sound seems to be something of a step backward, and I fear that the next album will be quite a struggle in moving forward again. There is no doubting Fink's ability as a songwriter, if only he were to draw influence from the right places, and perhaps as the new members (un-named session drummer and guitarist Fred Abbott) settle into the band over the next few years there could be a new burst of creativity which will see them back to their best. This feels like an album wasted for Noah and the Whale, who are clearly capable of so much better.