It is, it would seem, perfectly possible to have too much of a good thing. Or at least to have a good thing too often, so that by the time you get all of it in one go, you’ve had so many small chunks over the past year that you’re just a little bit fed up with it and the novelty has worn off.
So it is with Noah And The Whale. Good as they are, weeks of radio play, four singles – of which only two are present here – and a Sunday Times Best Of Indie giveaway have, sadly, dulled their appeal. This is a shame as they have a lot going for them: a less ironic Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly; a less nutso Jim Noir; a cheerier Will Oldham; a more English Handsome Family… these things should knit together perfectly and in the most part, they do.
On top of that, one of their number is described as ‘Urby Whale on bass and harmonium’, for which they deserve extra points alone, and Charlie Fink is a pretty good name for a front man while they’re at it, as well.
Charlie’s voice is deep and clear, the perfect foil for Laura Marling, who was once a member of the band and still performs with them (to best effect hereon Second Lover, 5 Years Time and Mary). Fink, who also produced Marling’s debut album Alas I Cannot Swim, shines out above the fiddle, drums and harmoniums even without her accompaniments.
The songs are catchy, neatly twee-core without disappearing too far up their own cuteness, but maybe they’ve missed the boat just a little, coming somewhat late into a scene that’s been around for a couple of years now and really needs something a little different inserted into it to grab the fickle attention of the freak-folk/nu-folk/anti-folk/insert-new-sub-sub-genre-name-here-folk crowd. Coming from Twickenham and drafting in Laura Marling for the girlie bits isn’t even original itself anymore.
After giving Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down a hard time, however, it’s a difficult album not to like. It’s gentle enough to be background music, lively enough to be worth listening to for the sake of it, and certainly an impressive achievement for a 21-year-old’s debut.
Give it the benefit of the doubt on the basis that all its faults are down to over-exposure. Stick it in a drawer for a year, come back to it when it’s disappeared from the radio waves and you’ve gone a good few months without hearing it and you might find that Noah And The Whale are much better than you remember them being. As good, in fact, as you thought they were the first time you heard them.