There are few mainstream chart propositions that have managed to subtly – though no less effectively – re-imagine themselves over each successive record quite like Noah And The Whale. First we had the whimsical, cutesy ‘Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down’, then the widescreen quasi-concept record of ‘The First Days Of Spring’ before 2011’s punchy synth-laden ‘Last Night On Earth’. Each, while stylistically different, were blessed with a genuine songwriting nous and so you can’t help but approach fourth effort ‘Heart Of Nowhere’ with a sense of intrigue.
In a sense it presents itself as an evolutionary rather than revolutionary development, in this case one which takes its predecessor’s penchant for the instant and injects an enormous dose of FM-friendly American power-pop from days of yore into the mix. Ignoring the imaginatively-titled album-opening instrumental ‘Introduction’ (which is incidental to the point of redundancy), the record sets out its stall from the get-go courtesy of the muscular (well, for Fink & Co) title track, with Tom Petty influences in full swing and bolstered by stabs of strings straight off an ABBA record. This cocksure confidence is carried on through the relentless, propulsive, Springsteen-lite of ‘All Through The Nite’, right the way through to well-crafted, euphoric lead single ‘There Will Come A Time’ and its immediate successor possessing a similar, immediate singalong quality, ‘Now Is Exactly The Time’. Even the quieter, slower moments like the slinky mid-record duo of ‘One More Night’ and ‘Still After All These Years’ show a near-tangible assured belief with the record as a whole.
If the last three records were a film, then ‘The First Days Of Spring’ would be its rock-bottom scene-setting opening passage, ‘Last Night On Earth’ its feet-finding, heartwarming middle and ‘Heart Of Nowhere’ it’s euphoric, Hollywood ending where the central character rediscovers themselves. With the finely-honed, polished sound of FM America bolstered by similarly attuned lyrics – the title track’s “You wanna live, you wanna try / you hear the whisper of the world outside” and ‘Lifetime”s “We used to dream of a world outside these walls / and we used to pray that one day we’d see them fall” wouldn’t look out of place in an inlay of one of The Boss’ prime-era records – it feels like a
record both designed and destined for big and bold things, be it festivals, stadiums or road trips. It may be seen as some to be akin to heresy in chart land, but it’s also – whisper it – fun, and Lord knows that’s a welcome addition to the musical landscape.