‘There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.’ ~Robert Graves
A more appropriate quote could not be found to define Last Night On Earth. An arrow chronically aimed at writer Charlie Fink is branded with lyrical criticism; that his word’s lack beauty in their brutal simplicity. In reality, this aspersion fails to account for the intrinsic nature of poetry- the expression of something often very simple in a more complicated way. Therefore it is questionable as to whether Fink is writing pure poetry or whether the point of his lyrics are merely to convey a message that music cannot, try as hard as it may. In which case, lyrical themes in Last Night On Earth go as far as to surpass the vacuous level reached by most contemporaries. Yes, the meanings are relatively explicit, but this cannot negate the emotion that burns behind every song. Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down and The First Days Of Spring both circled narratively around 1st person accounts and metaphors, the likes of ‘Stranger’ – ‘I’m a fox, trapped in the headlights’- serving as prime example. Interestingly, Fink now withdraws from the first verses of most of the songs; only re-acquainting himself with the story lines after the vignettes have had time to mature in their own right. Instead of creating an uncomfortable removal, this technique only serves as welcome development upon his old style- deepening the metaphors used whilst retaining the beautiful personality that Noah And The Whale produce so vividly.
Following the market successes of their last two records, it is probable that any new NATW record would have been financially profitable. Producing another Peaceful … would have saved cash on the production front and would undoubtedly have re-earnt the hearts of every nu-folk hanger on left. Safe would have been the decision to mould a sequel to The First Days …- focusing on songwriting and musicality would have all but certainly secured a host of middle aged, album buying customers. However, resting on their laurels just wouldn’t be Noah And The Whale’s style. The release of an unabashedly pop album is not only risky for the reputation , but also for the kitty. A high production flop has left careers in tatters before, yet luckily it seems as though Fink and co. have escaped unharmed – but not thanks to the efforts of some…
‘It may be completely sincere. Either way, it’s completely appalling. Having ditched the lo-fi stylings of their previous two releases, the Twickenham band have thrown themselves headlong into the pseudo-soulful blandness of late Eighties soft rock like some horrific Frankenstein hybrid of Deacon Blue, John “Cougar” Mellencamp and Hothouse Flowers. Even if it’s a joke, it’s a joke you don’t wanna hear.’
The nonsensical ramblings of an alarmingly high profile music journalist are on show above. This is a classic example of a reviewer not understanding the context in which an album is produced. In this case the journalist has overlooked the band’s back story, focusing on a snobbish, automatic anti-pop stance. Instead of listening for the obvious comparisons with Eno, Roxy Music and even The Kinks, the writer has undoubtedly searched hard to drag up the most tenuous of links to some of 80’s synth pop’s poorer exponents. Seconds into ‘Life Is Life’s’ polyrythmed intro or the ‘Baba O’Reily’ esc beginning to ‘Wild Thing’, anyone of any sense would notice that Last Night On Earth is in now way a product of 2010’s 80’s revival wave. In fact, to dance with the crowd yet simultaneously turn in the opposite direction is testament to the daring, bordering bravado demonstrated within these 33 minutes.
‘A joke’, this record most definitely is not.
If anything, it is the resolution to the story Fink ashamedly lets us glimpse into. All too public has been the birth/death/afterlife of his relationship with contemporary Laura Marling, the only positive coming from their split being a gloriously melancholy album from each. The First Days Of Spring ended on the positive note that Last Night On Earth adopts from the outset, and the comparisons don’t stop there. Emmy The Great’s backing vocals are reincarnated in gospel and synthesised forms whilst the ‘singles collection’ as opposed to the ‘full length album’ is bought back from its death on Peaceful’s ‘Hold My Hand As I’m Lowered’. ‘Old Joy’ breaks about the line, ‘Day by day, joy comes back to me’- it comes back in the music and in the real essence of the album. Controversial, thematic, dramatic. I would have expected nothing less.