Home Music Album Reviews Album Review: Caustic Love by Paolo Nutini

Album Review: Caustic Love by Paolo Nutini

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Becca Di Francesco examines the latest offering by singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini

After a five year absence the soulful Scottish-Italian singer is back with an album that really boasts his vocal ability. Though Paolo Nutini seems to be one of the few talented artists I can’t seem to overplay, I’ve been in anticipation for a new album for a very long time. Thankfully, he doesn’t disappoint. There’s no doubt that Caustic Love is a change of pace from his previous album Sunny Side Up whose single ‘Pencil Full of Lead’ was bursting to the brim with the optimism and excitement of a small puppy. That album has a familial theme – you could imagine any 22-year-old gathering ideas to keep his Mum happy from songs like ‘Simple Things’:

“I’ll cherish the simple things… Like going round my Mum’s house for my tea”.

Image Credit: digitalspy.co.uk
Image Credit: digitalspy.co.uk

By contrast, Caustic Love feels more mature. His songs still have the sexy, bluesy and soulful melodies that you’ll catch yourself humming, but the lyrics are somewhat more pessimistic, as in the refrain for ‘Numpty’:

“We’re building a house so we can fall at the first brick” and “I’ve been told it only gets harder from here”.

Nutini’s lyrical priorities seem to have changed somewhat as Caustic Love has a less than subtle political theme climax in the powerful ‘Iron Sky’ that features the Charlie Chaplin speech from ‘The Great Dictator’.

The album as a whole varies considerably in tone from song to song and influences seem to contrast one another – Chaplin’s ‘Easy Street’ referenced in ‘Cherry Blossom’ and the blatant Bowie influence on ‘Fashion’ feat. Janelle Monáe (whose voice is thankfully powerful enough not to be overpowered by Nutini’s). His voice is cohesive enough to ensure the collection doesn’t sound messy when the album is played through, and I’d definitely recommend listening to the album the whole way through to fully appreciate it.

There is simply too much going on to be captured in the singles ‘Scream (Funk My Life Up)’ and ‘Iron Sky’, and not listening to the whole thing could result in missing a gem like ‘Someone Like You’. The inclusion of interludes eases a full play-through – the songs make little sense and can’t hold their own when played alone, and the album feels like it’s been carefully crafted to make sure songs flow into one another.

The halfway point ‘Better Man’ is suitably placed between an interlude and ‘Iron Sky’. The familiar sounding acoustic number offers a chance to regroup after the unusual rhythms of the ‘Superfly’ interlude. The contrast of ‘Better Man’ with ‘Iron Sky’ demonstrates Nutini’s overwhelming musical talent with two incredibly different songs.

With festival season just around the corner the real question is how these songs will transfer into live performances. His new material has a lot to live up to in that respect, his debut album gave audiences ‘Last Request’ to belt out with him; Sunny Side Up, of course, had ‘Pencil Full of Lead’ to dance to and attempt to sing along to (way too fast for me).

But, is Caustic Love too sultry and serious for some fun at a festival?

I don’t think we’ve got anything to worry about. The instrumental in ‘Iron Sky’ is when singer and audience can lose themselves in some serious jamming, and I guarantee that ‘Scream (Funk My Life Up)’ which superbly opens the album will be the opening number to perform live and get everyone moving and introduce Nutini with his new sound to his fans. I’m most excited, however, about ‘Better Man’; I’m sure his powerful voice will be all the more impressive live when he’s entranced the audience. It’s that song in particular that I’m most excited to experience at Glastonbury.

For now, however, this album is on repeat and is certainly making revision bearable.

Becca Di Francesco

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The music section of Exeter’s independent student newspaper.

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