Noah and the Whale’s “Last Night On Earth” trades in the acoustic guitars and clever lyrics of previous efforts for big synthesizer hooks and optimistic platitudes.
These tunes aren’t bad. They have solid choruses, good instrumental melodies and pleasing arrangements. All those elements are carried over from Noah’s two earlier albums. But there are bands that have been doing anthem-laden synth-rock much longer than Noah, and that experience makes their albums better than “Last Night on Earth.”
There are high points: “Paradise Stars” is a beautiful, piano-led instrumental tune. “Give It All Back” is led by a perky marimba line that gives it a unique feel. “The Line” features what sounds like hammered dulcimer before giving in to synth burbles, and the dreary musing is the most satisfying of the bunch. Gospel choirs make appearances throughout, which is fun. Songwriter Charlie Fink seems comfortable in these tunes vocally, which helps the enjoyment even when the rest of the tune inspires head scratching.
The inevitable cheesy moments: “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” is nearly self-explanatory in its campiness. “Tonight’s the Kind of Night” is a Killers song. Opener “Life is Life” has a regrettable electric guitar/synth noise piercing it over and over.
Would you expect The Killers to turn out a charming, low-key folk album? No, and if they did, it would probably have some struggles. Noah’s synth-rock turn is the same. “Last Night on Earth” is somewhat like if Annie Leibovitz suddenly decided to shoot landscapes. I mean, it’s kind of the same thing, right?