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Life goes on for Fink after his heartbreak

The lead single from Noah & the Whale's third album, Last Night on Earth, was a rather jolly and insidiously catchy affair called L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. which boasted one of those naggingly addictive choruses in which the title is spelt out.

Despite having been lumped in with the UK's nu-folk scene with their debut Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down, Noah mainman Charlie Fink has rediscovered the joys of straightforward garage pop on the new collection, and his band are all the better for it. At least Last Night on Earth finds Fink in an upbeat mood -- which one certainly couldn't say about his last album, The First Days of Spring.

Although containing several rather lovely melodies and some gorgeous arrangements, The First Days of Spring was pretty heavy going, as Fink joined the ranks of artists who've laid their hearts on the line and given us the break-up album.

In Fink's case, it was the collapse of his relationship with singer-songwriter and former band member Laura Marling, which even prompted the heartbroken chap to go so far as to direct a short film based around the album.

Charlie Fink isn't the first and certainly won't be the last songwriter to seize on the deterioration in a relationship as inspiration for their work. Back in the early 1950s, Frank Sinatra's turbulent dalliance with Ava Gardner was in its death throes when he headed into the studio to record . . . Sings for Only the Lonely.

Marvin Gaye's contribution came about when a judge decreed that, as part of his divorce settlement with Anna Gordy, the singer owed her his next two albums. It prompted him to record Here, My Dear, a double-set in which the listener was left in no doubt just how aggrieved Gaye was.


More recently, Bon Iver took to a cabin in the woods to record For Emma, Forever Ago, a break-up record which followed in the grand tradition of Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, Elvis Costello's Blood & Chocolate, John Martyn's Grace and Danger and pretty much most of Aimee Mann's work with 'Til Tuesday.

However, when it comes to break-up albums it's difficult to beat the tension which results when the people in the band itself are coming apart at the seams. Richard and Linda Thompson's Shoot Out the Lights is a case in point, their marriage disintegrating during recording, which adds an extra dimension to Linda singing the lines "Where's the justice and where's the sense/When all the pain's on my side of the fence" in Walking on a Wire.

The daddy of them all though has to be Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, during which Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were splitting, as were Christine and John McVie, while Mick Fleetwood was having an affair with Nicks.

Listen to the album in the light of all that carry-on and you'll hear it afresh. > George Byrne

Noah & the Whale play the Olympia on Monday