Album Reviews

Noah And The Whale – Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down

(Vertigo) UK release date: 11 August 2008

It is, it would seem, perfectly possible to havetoo much of a good thing. Or at least to have a goodthing too often, so that by the time you get all of itin one go, you’ve had so many small chunks over thepast year that you’re just a little bit fed up with itand 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 twoare present here – and a Sunday Times Best Of Indiegiveaway have, sadly, dulled their appeal. This is ashame as they have a lot going for them: a less ironicGet Cape. Wear Cape. Fly; a less nutso JimNoir; a cheerier Will Oldham; a moreEnglish Handsome Family… these things shouldknit 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 theydeserve extra points alone, and Charlie Fink is apretty good name for a front man while they’re at it,as well.

Charlie’s voice is deep and clear, the perfect foilfor Laura Marling, who was once a member of theband and still performs with them (to best effect hereon Second Lover, 5 Years Time and Mary). Fink, whoalso produced Marling’s debut album Alas I CannotSwim, shines out above the fiddle, drums andharmoniums even without her accompaniments.

The songs are catchy, neatly twee-core withoutdisappearing too far up their own cuteness, but maybethey’ve missed the boat just a little, coming somewhatlate into a scene that’s been around for a couple ofyears now and really needs something a littledifferent inserted into it to grab the fickleattention of thefreak-folk/nu-folk/anti-folk/insert-new-sub-sub-genre-name-here-folkcrowd. Coming from Twickenham and drafting in LauraMarling for the girlie bits isn’t even original itselfanymore.

After giving Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down ahard time, however, it’s a difficult album not tolike. It’s gentle enough to be background music,lively enough to be worth listening to for the sake ofit, and certainly an impressive achievement for a21-year-old’s debut.

Give it the benefit of the doubt on the basis thatall its faults are down to over-exposure. Stick it ina drawer for a year, come back to it when it’sdisappeared from the radio waves and you’ve gone agood few months without hearing it and you might findthat Noah And The Whale are much better than youremember them being. As good, in fact, as you thoughtthey were the first time you heard them.

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