Single Review: Noah And The Whale – ‘Give It All Back’

“The mix of celebrating achievements with expansive instrumental backing is simply brilliant”

5 STARS

Digital Release: January 1, 2012

Physical Release: N/A

Noah And The Whale seemed to have some kind of epiphany whilst lost out in the wilderness of Charlie Finks’ ended relationship with Laura Marling, and having ditched the cutesy preciousness of ‘Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down’, they came back with a directionless marathon of orchestral numbers on ‘The First Days of Spring’. Their latest album though, saw them trade up a little. In place of doe-eyed enthusiasm as a means to get away with optimistic ambition like ‘5 Years Time’, we listeners can enjoy full-bodied, wide-screen spectacles and Charlie Fink, to the sound of Tom Hobden’s twee little violin, would sing in glorious monotone about the trivialities of a lovelorn life, simpering at his own misfortune and his ability to turn something quite depressing into a bubbly, sponge-light summer ditty. 

But that said, it’s very hard to say that you don’t miss Noah And The Whale’s more… ‘British’ identity. Ever since Fink assumed the position of a wise-old sage commenting on the serendipitous queerness of life itself, there’s been an almost jarring differentiation between eras. Though, on ‘Give It All Back’, there some unmistakable and shameless reminiscence of those modest little necessities Fink used to murmur about like cigarettes and sofas, as he himself casts his memory back to the days when he started his first band. Sparing us the gaudy details of vivacious young children on a romanticised journey to find fame and retold through the sullen lips of someone who found it and hated it, Fink and the gang, really quite masterfully, hardly put a single foot wrong. In the song, Fink actually re-imagines himself as an early teen with ambition, but doesn’t decorate the story to make it sound worse or grander than it was. It’s simply an account from the eyes of someone who looks back with a fondness that only nostalgia brings. The only irk that could lose them marks in the eyes of a pedant are the valiant cries for the “kids who believed in rock and roll” and then somewhat foolishly locate them in a primary school assembly.

But other than that, it’s a pleasant surprise to hear nuances of Noah And The Whale’s older material filter through. Underneath the bulky guitars and the swelling synthesisers, there’s a delicate little xylophone melody, acting as the backbone to the whole song. It’s a strange thought that they’ve still got faith in their ability to construct songs upon nursery-rhyme melodies rather than overcompensating with big-sounding instruments. Perhaps an album’s worth of this kind of song-craft would be a repeat of their first album, but in smaller quantities, the mix of celebrating achievements with expansive instrumental backing is simply brilliant.

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