A band’s name is a sacred vessel, marking the turning point in any group’s musical career that they officially want to make known how people around the world will call them. Sometimes it might be an innocuous nickname and sometimes it might be an homage to a particular influential hallmark such as a song title or even a movie title.
Up-and-coming UK folk band Noah And The Whale gets their name through a combination of one of their collectively favorite films (The Squid And The Whale) and its director (Noah Baumbach).
Anyone who’s seen the quirky indie movie can instantly relate to the debut album Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down by a few quirky musicians. Led by brothers Charlie and Doug Fink, this London quartet (along with Tom Hobden and Matt Urby) cites such luminous predecessors as Bob Dylan, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, and Daniel Johnston for the inspirations of their brand of kooky (and possibly off-the-wall abstract) indie folk best reserved for soundtracks to Farrelly Brothers films (think The Push Stars from There’s Something About Mary). Mentioning Wes Anderson, although accurate, would have been too easy.
What helps set Noah And The Whale apart from others is also what keeps them apart from others, and that’s not always a good thing.
The album opens with the up-tempo banjo tune “2 Atoms In A Molecule,” followed by the campfire sing-along-like “Jocasta” and the supposed love song “Shape Of My Heart.” With lyrics like “For your heart is like a flower as it grows / And it’s the rain, not just the sun that helps it bloom / And you don’t know how it feels to be alive / Until you know how it feels to die,” the latter song which on first glance should be the proclamation of one man’s undying love for his woman is instead the somewhat tragic tale of one man’s reality-beaten half-empty cup of love for his woman.
Depressing, isn’t it? Depending on your point of view, if you hit repeat you’ll likely get the gist of the eight subsequent tracks, but even I’m not that spiteful. There are some worthwhile tracks like the happy go lucky “5 Years Time” and the love song “Mary” that surprisingly closes with a cup half-full kind of ending.
NATW fills a room like the hum of a refrigerator. For moments you can tell the appliance is working, but any partially worthwhile distraction would bring more precedence to your attention.