Over the course of its half-decade together, Noah and the Whale has learned some valuable lessons about pleasing the punters. A big one is that—disciples of Morrissey aside—there aren’t a lot of people who head out for the night hoping to wallow in the personal misery of others. That’s been driven home by the reaction to Noah and the Whale’s Last Night on Earth, the upbeat follow-up to the 2009 breakup downer The First Days of Spring.
“It’s been quite a remarkable reception to the record,” singer-guitarist Charlie Fink says, on the line from a Cambridge, England, tour stop. “We’re really delighted with it—it’s been brilliant. For me, the main barometer is the shows, you know? That’s when you get a sense whether the songs are connecting or not.”
The First Days of Spring found Fink in a dark and introspective place, this coming on the heels of his splitting with Laura Marling, who sang on the band’s debut disc, Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down. With Last Night on Earth, which expands on the band’s twee-folk beginnings with shimmering synth-pop, American gospel, and ’80s MOR rock, the frontman knew he needed to change things up. Sonically, the band is clearly on a high; check out the way “Wild Thing” blends space-travel keyboards with retro-’20s female vocals and western-dusted guitars.
Lyrically, Fink forced himself to look outside of himself, with the resulting songs filled with richly detailed characters, all of whom seem to be striving to make changes in their lives. Like, for example, the wonderful “Tonight’s the Kind of Night”, which starts with the lines “There’s a boy with his head pressed up to the window/Of a bus heading out of town/In his breath on the glass he draws with his finger a map of the roads as they go down.”
“The tour for First Days of Spring was basically three months—it ended in December of 2009,” Fink notes. “I went to Wales for New Year’s, and I was coming back to London on New Year’s Day on the train, literally on the first day of a new decade, and it was on that train journey that I wrote ”˜Tonight’s the Kind of Night’. I knew that I wanted to make a change in my life, and also inject some new spirit into the band. I didn’t want to write love songs.”
From the reaction from the fans, the members of Noah and the Whale aren’t alone in their newfound lust for life.
“We’ve had people singing along and punching the air,” Fink says. “It’s so different from when we were touring First Days of Spring that it’s crazy.”
Noah and Whale plays the Biltmore Cabaret on Tuesday (May 31).