Twickenham, London’s Noah & The Whale have had a really curious trajectory. They hit it big in their native England with the middling, bit run-of-the-mill alt-folk Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down (QRO review) in 2008. Then they dropped the most interesting aspect of Peaceful, the female backing vocals of Laura Marling (QRO live review), after she broke up with Noah singer/guitarist Charlie Fink – and Fink took that departure to craft a far, far more accomplished follow-up, The First Days of Spring (QRO review), centered around breaking up. And now the band swings into an even bigger curve with Last Night On Earth, eschewing both the sadness and the alt-folk for an ‘up with life’ pop-rock that is clear and obvious – and almost impossible not to enjoy.
An outfit celebrating life is usually about as tiresome as a person celebrating it – i.e., a lot – but somehow Noah & The Whale make it work on Last Night. Pieces like “Tonight’s the Kind of Night”, which revives a seventies up-rock spirit, “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.”, about hard-living people with said philosophy, “Give It All Back”, retelling the greatness of being a kid starting a band, “Just Before We Met”, an ‘up with relationship’ song, and “Waiting for My Chance to Come” are all unabashedly ‘up with life’ – and one really can’t help but love them. Noah fans looking for the heartbreak of First Days have a few sad songs, including the most restrained song called “Wild Thing” that you’ll ever hear, but they’re not of First style, more indietronic, and “The Line” is bright despite its sadness.
Those songs that aren’t as uplifting do feel a bit like filler before the next uplift, and not all of that uplift on Last Night On Earth is equally as completely enjoyable – opener “Life is Life” is a little too staccato, “Waiting” feels a bit obvious compared to the prior numbers, and slow gospel-like closer “Old Joy” doesn’t wow – but the album is never annoying (an impressive feat all its own). Sometimes, like Rob Lowe’s super-positive character on Parks & Recreation, ‘up with life’ can win anyone over.
MP3 Stream: “Tonight’s the Kind of Night”