Album Review: Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love2 min read
Paolo Nutini is now 27 years old: an age that tends to generate nervous whispers in the rock n’ roll world.
Not that the Scottish singer-songwriter shows signs of demise on Caustic Love, his third studio album. This effort, co-produced with Sunny Side Up collaborator Dani Castelar, is coloured by its recording locations: the warmth of Valencia, the insanity of the US, and the cool of London and Glasgow.
The album opener, lead single Scream (Funk My Life Up), is barely a derivative teaser of what Nutini is capable of and gets boring after a few listens. Fortunately, other tracks are more successful in showing off Nutini’s passionate vocals and compelling, gritty songwriting.
The sadder songs are especially effective. The gentle ghostly duet Let Me Down Easy has the sway and croon of Bob Marley’s Could You Be Loved. The hard-hitting doo-wop waltz One Day and the chilling power ballad Iron Sky soar as modern fitting tributes to A Change Is Gonna Come, Gimme Shelter and other great 1960s soul ballads. The latter track is made particularly epic with the inclusion of Charlie Chaplin’s rousing speech in the 1940 film lampooning the Nazi regime, ‘The Great Dictator’. Listeners are compelled to hang onto Nutini’s every word as he channels his inner Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye. His throat-shredding vibrato and croaky cries of desperation, supported by understated real instruments like strings and brass, are certainly a glorious ‘thing of beauty’. Looking For Something, with its melancholy vibe, wouldn’t be out of place amongst the orchestra-supported, anthem-like ballads of the Britpop era.
Those looking for better feel-good songs than Scream should enjoy the quirky rock n’ roll groove of Numpty, whose innuendo (‘am I big enough, strong enough?’) and cursing (‘who’s that b—-?’) are bound to startle listeners. There’s also the nice and slow Diana, featuring Nutini’s effortless falsetto, a hypnotic bass and an overall sultry vibe that are bound to heat things up. Fashion (featuring Janelle Monae as the dream girl with attitude) is a fun, filthy, raucous rocker that grooves just as much as David Bowie’s track of the same name.
Nutini’s vocals on Someone Like You, backed only by a bass, hark to the rich harmonies of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. However, this album closer cannot be taken seriously. It’s as cheesy as Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say I Love You, but this is most likely intentional.
Nutini’s Caustic Love proves that listeners should not judge an album by its lead single. The full-length is far more rewarding as a whole, as Nutini manages to hold the attention of listeners with songs that are both devastatingly sad and carefree.