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Review: Noah and the Whale

NOAH and the Whale have signalled their 'mature' new direction by donning fancy suits and gumming up their hair in Brylcreem. It isn't exactly Beyonce squeezing into a recording booth with Odd Future, but then these one-time darlings of the London nu-folk scene have never been ones for crotch-grabbing overstatement.

Even their allegedly 'edgy' new album, 'Last Night On Earth', is a mostly soppy affair, woven from wistful student disco guitars, burbling drum machines and frontman Charlie Fink's choirboy crooning.

The most radical things about it are the absence of mandolins that sound as if they might take flight at the first loud noise, and the fact Fink is no longer mooching over his ex-girlfriend, folk singer Laura Marling.

Instead, he is supposedly giving voice to his love of America, with lyrics that drip with the romance of the open road and influences that run from Roy Orbison to Tom Waits to Tom Petty.

The most discernible fingerprints on the record, however, belong not to sundry totems of Americana but to that quintessentially English songwriter Ray Davies of The Kinks. His touch is particularly evident on single 'L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.', which bears such a stark resemblance to 'Lola' by The Kinks it's a wonder someone didn't alert Fink before he left the song out the door.

'L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.' has been a huge success in Ireland, largely due to incessant play on Today FM (where its cheesy, pat optimism has apparently struck a chord). The result is a sellout room to greet the band as they troop on stage, dapper in what seem to be the same suits they've been wearing in their photoshoots (it's too dark to tell how much Brylcreem they've slathered on).

Strapping on guitars and settling behind keyboards the five-piece appear at pains to show how far they've progressed from the days when their lot in life was to serve as wussy understudies to Mumford & Sons.

While they've moved in, however, it's apparent that a fair chunk of their fanbase is holding out. Squeezed between adventurous new tracks like 'Tonight's the Kind of Night' and 'Life Is Life', tear-streaked oldies like '5 Years Time' and 'Blue Skies' elicit some of the evening's most impassioned responses.

You suspect not everyone would be devastated were Fink and co to ditch the city slicker image and reclaim their earlier identity as waifish banjo-bashers searching for an understanding shoulder on which to sob.

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