Creating their band name by fusing the 2005 critically acclaimed film The Squid and the Whale with its director Noel Baumbach is almost enough to make you wanna go see that film. But that’s a whole other review, so rest assured this unrelated album by London four-piece Noah and the Whale is worth its own salt. Most kids with quids would agree, with lead single 5 Years Time (the best whistling song since Peter, Bjorn & John’s Young Folks) finding the UK top 10 with its jaunty ‘sun, sun, sun… fun, fun, fun…. love, love, love [etcetera]…’ singalong chorus.
Give me this group at one of those grainy, grassy hilltop festivals any time, where folks seem to sprout banjos and harmonicas like fresh limbs, while other things like work and shoes are optional. There, in some dark woody surroundings with fire and wine to raise the melancholy, earthy elements of this music.
There’s no question Noah and the Whale aren’t always upbeat; in fact they’re quite often dour. But their ability to swing a song’s mood is sublime – check out the last ten seconds of Second Lover for a prime example. Elsewhere Rocks and Daggers is all fiddles ahoy, whilst lyrics from the gravel end of singer/guitarist Charlie Fink’s urban Guthrie drawl include this on 2 Atoms in a Molecule: ‘If love is just a game, then how come it’s no fun / …how come I’ve never won / …maybe it’s possible I might be playing it wrong and that’s why every time I roll the dice, I always come undone’, or ‘If there’s any love in me, don’t let it show / …don’t let it grow’ on Shape of My Heart.
Is the Fink tank half jokingly full, or half seriously empty? In most cases the music suggests the former, hence my sudden weird and unexpected want for a thousand hippies to share it all with.