Noah and the Whale – Heart Of Nowhere

Albums / Words

14 May 13

If only advice could be streamed. We’d leave the house less and probably turn into lesser human beings, but at least we’d have what we needed on call.

This is conjecture – mostly. Once every few years, Noah and the Whale release a new LP and life’s problems can, albeit briefly, be solved in the digital space.

Heart Of Nowhere lays somewhere between the first and third efforts. As much as ‘Introduction”s woodblock teases the band’s inbred merriment – the record finds, particularly in ‘Now Is Exactly The Time’, solace in the aging process. The theme, which projects neither gratefulness nor denial of aging, narrates ‘One More Night’, ‘Not Too Late’, ‘There Will Come a Time’ and clearly – ‘Still After All These Years’.

What it does say is something far more nonchalant; more assertive and grown: ‘Love may not be the cure / That’s something I’ll never know’

Elsewhere there’s shuffling encouraged as in ‘Heart Of Nowhere’ which parties like a third LP single. These up tempo tracks still raise the heartiest GNAWWW THEY’RE BACK, as in ‘Lifetime’, which flourishes with first album dough eyedness.

More or less, these tracks are laced with the same inward peering nostalgia that credits Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down, the neo-drudge of The First Days of Spring and the big-band kick of Last Night on Earth. Noah and the Whale are playing grown ups but I’m not convinced they’re long out of adolescence.

Brief ‘n’ breezy remains the modus operandi of Twickenham’s finest folksters (yep, even with ubiquitous snooze-inducers Mumford & Sons round the corner) – and Heart of Nowhere boasts maturity and musicianship consequent on experience.

That isn’t to say their fourth (fourth!) outing finds Noah and the The Whale any less terminally unassured in a sentimental way. Charlie Fink’s words lament, pointedly, lost years as a side effect of touring. That flavour of new wave optimism is a decoy; the ground note of Nowhere peripatetic and lonesome.

This from a band with years still in the tank. That a collection of tunes about growing up – with ‘Lifetime’ and ‘Not Too Late’ as prime examples – is packaged up as an emotional journey of even passable originality shows endearing naivety. It reminds that behind their precocious achievements, Noah & The Whale are yet young.

And still full of promise. These themes were well-worn when even Nick Hornby found them, so Nowhere’s real achievement is technical nous. Although recorded live for that Tuborg-scented summer festival quality, the record is also immaculate of production.

Consider the title track: ripping violins recalling ‘Eleanor Rigby’ set off by a bouncy bass of the Sting school – which in fact drives this cohesive and memorable set.

Noah And The Whale’s Heart Of Nowhere is pure driving music.

Flying down some American highway with the top down. Nothing else on the road but you, your wheels and the steady sound of Noah and the Whale chugging along amidst the wind whistling din.

However this is England.

The top comes down and you’re pelted with freezing rain. Bugs scream before their guts are splashed across the windscreen. A family of dogs pass you in howls as they drive manically towards the coast for a lead-free weekend. It keeps on raining.

NATW, once the darlings of the British folk scene are now more likely to be found lurking in The Killers territory of cinematic pop rock.

Springsteen inspired Heart Of Nowhere follows the same musical path as Last Night On Earth.

A record which had the tough task of having to follow up the well-loved The First Days Of Spring, but instead of trying to compete with it Fink took the music in a different direction and triumphed in doing so.

Heart Of Nowhere feels like it is a sound which has lingered a little too long. Songs such as ‘Now Is Exactly The Time’ and ‘Not Too Late’ are still moments of real quality in an album which at times feels rather bland. Too chorus heavy; too formulaic.

I hope the next album presents another change in direction.

It’s what Springsteen would want.

Noah and the Whale accompany Heart Of Nowhere with a Film, which can be viewed via their official website.