REVIEW: Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love

Entering the British music-scene in the mid-noughties with a guitar and a haircut meant success for most singer-songwriters who were marketable to a younger audience. The public’s craving for slower, softer, soulful songs was satisfied by the likes of James Blunt and James Morrison, but none could captivate schoolgirls quite like the then 20-year-old Scot, Paolo Nutini.

A debut album that produced hits like Last Request, Jenny Don’t Be Hasty, and Rewind instantly made Nutini one of the biggest artists in the UK. His follow up album, 2008’s Sunny Side Up, delivered hits Candy, and Pencil Full of Lead, but failed to reach the heights of his debut. A mash up of swing, country, soul and R&B, Nutini managed to shed the polished acoustic pop-star sound that he’d been associated with, but didn’t define a direction in which he was heading.

If the five-year wait for his latest album, Caustic Love, was an attempt to find the sound that would define him, then he has succeeded.

Lead single Scream opens the album but serves more as a transition for those fans of his earlier work than as a pre-cursor for what to expect. It runs into Let Me Down Easy, a slower, more melodic track which samples Bettye Lavette’s original version, as Nutini finally showcases the influences he’s been immersed in for the past five years.

Changing pace, and throwing us off course instantly, Nutini unleashes Iron Sky on the album’s halfway mark. Undoubtedly the heaviest track, and destined to be a single, it moves away from the softer, easy-listening tunes of One Day and Better Man.

Emotional, raw, over six minutes long, and sampling Charlie Chaplin audio from his 60’s film The Great Dictator, Nutini announces his arrival as the darker artist he’s always threatened to be.

The album is built around this song, and the spine-like centrepiece ushers in the last twenty minutes which prove to be a more ambitious than the first half hour. A couple more attempted six-minute epics, and some James Browne influenced up-beat tunes are all very commendale, but unfortunately nothing reaches the quality of Iron Sky, and almost says “here’s what else I got”.

If there are no singles to be found in these twenty minutes, they at least give a flavour of what to expect on the next album, which surely won’t take another five years. No longer a teen heartthrob, or a young man dealing with the weight of a second album, Nutini has now found his sound. Posited as the male Amy Winehouse, and tasked with bringing soul to the next generation, Caustic Love has done enough to make sure Paolo Nutini is certainly heading in the right direction.

7.8

Jason Brennan

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