The myth of the difficult second album has been debunked significantly this year. Artists such as The Horrors and Jack Penate have both brilliantly exposed the theory that a young band spend the first eighteen years of their life conjuring their fantastic debut, only then to fall at the second hurdle as too much sex, drugs, hype and record company pressure lead them to creating the dismal flop of the not so good follow up. In the cases of both these acts album two was far better than the first.
Here’s another one that bucks that idea. The First Days of Spring by Noah and the Whale is a dismally great album. Dismally great because the tone of this recording is one of almost constant sadness - with just one simple concept; ‘I’ve split up with my girlfriend, things are crap, I’m lost , I’m trying to move on but I’m hoping she’ll come back.’ It’s an album about a broken heart, and although there are occasional glimmers of hope, with song titles such as I Have Nothing you can guess where the central core of this album lies. Lyrics such as “I don’t think it’s the end but I know we can’t keep going,” from Open Window and “I’m the flower you’re keeping, that without love will wilt and die,” are all over the place. Its simple, almost embarrassingly clichéd, but then what isn’t clichéd about emotions ? It takes an extraordinary poet to create something original out of an emotion that the vast majority of us will experience at some point in our lives. Vocalist Charlie Fink may not be that extraordinary poet, but at least he wears his heart on his sleeve. By the end of the record you will either want to give Fink a big old hug or slap him round the face and tell him to stop gazing at his navel.
Whilst all of this introspective glumness may not sound like the most rewarding or inspiring of experiences, Noah And The Whale have sound tracked the self pity with some beautiful music that is in places sparse and in places of epic proportions. The album is structured with much thought, the songs providing an interlinking soundtrack divided into two equally sorrowful parts. The title track opens with brooding funeral drums and lonesome guitar, gradually soaring to a glorious climax reminiscent of Arcade Fire. In the middle, separating the two parts are two short instrumentals and the stupidly upbeat and positive Love of an Orchestra. In this chirpy tune Charlie finds solace in the fact that as long as he has music there’s no need for despair, whilst choirs, clattering percussion and church bells sing out around him. The album ends on a moderately hopeful note as well, Charlie noting that “Now I’m free of all your pain,” over country tinged steel guitar, but even then he can’t help wanting her again as he softly croons that “My door is always open.”
The First Days of Spring works sonically far better than Noah and the Whales debut as the instrumentation is for the most part less busy, less quirky and more rewarding as a listening experience. It's an accomplished journey through heartbreak that will secure your return far more often than the bands previous work. At this rate, whatever Charlie Finks next emotional experience, album three will be a corker.