It seems strange to criticize something for being too joyous. With so many terrible things happening in the world, condemning celebrations of life is like popping a balloon bouquet one painful burst at a time. A few listens to Noah & the Whale’s third release Last Night on Earth, however, and you remember how frustrating your perpetually happy friend is on
days you just want to brood.
At first listen, it seems the band has returned to the fun, sun-soaked style they captured on their first album
. But Noah & the Whale’s debut balanced this with enough weight and homespun sound to avoid sounding like a novelty. That kind of crunch is immediately absent on this album. It is lazy to say a band has “sold out,” but it is apparent that Last Night on Earth was produced with a larger budget and is featured on car commercials to make those funds back . Noah & the Whale was largely criticized for trying too hard to deviate from their twee debut with sophomore effort The First Days of Spring, whereas the latest album seems like an overcompensation, considering their brief stint with a darker approach.
The grit of their last album has been smoothed over with synth layers, and melancholy aspects have been piled with unrelated hooks and glinting, hopeful lyrics.
Last Night on Earth puts its best foot forward with the first track, “Life is Life.” The song employs the anthemic synths that ruled the 1980s alongside a blissfully assured message of some unknown character’s future with a choir-type chorus and all. This fearless optimism works well as a first track, but the problem is that this same theme is applied to literally every other song on the album. The first-track newness of every song prevents Last Night on Earth from really ever beginning and the album stays stuck in the mode of starting over.
“L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” offers hope for some sort of progression of the record. The climbing guitar lines and lack of overbearing electronic elements are a nice change from preceding songs. That is when the awful truth sets in—the title actually means what you think it does, and that is a repeatedly spelled-out chorus a la Fergie. Minus the chorus, “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” is an electronic ode to Tom Petty’s brand of narrative lyricism. Toward
the end, lovely string arrangements enter at the bridge, but the glimpse of hope is quickly taken away as the chorus repeats itself again. Nevertheless, the alphabet lyrics do their trick and will inevitably be lodged in your brain for at least a day or two.
With Last Night on Earth, Noah & the Whale never let their guard down past the surface level.
This makes delving into the record difficult—this, and the fact that their lyrics do not provide are not too much to explore in the first place. Not that Noah & the Whale were ever expected to be prophetic, but the songs on this album are too flighty to leave much of an impression or any lasting effects on listeners. The band has proven they can pull off sunny albums with some dignity, but Last Night on Earth takes the cliches too far.
Noah & the Whale – Last Night on Earth Tracklist:
- “Life Is Life”
- “Tonight’s The Kind of Night”
- “Wild Thing”
- “Give It All Back”
- “Just Before We Met”
- “Paradise Stars”
- “Waiting for My Chance to Come”
- “The Line”
- “Old Joy”