Wild Young Hearts
REVIEW BY: Michael Broyles
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/30/2009
It is 11:10 in the evening and I have work at 7:00 AM. I am awake, too excited to fall asleep. Is it the two cups of coffee I drank? No. It is the sounds of British sensation the Noisettes’ Wild Young Hearts flowing through my head.
I first heard the Noisettes on their debut What’s The Time Mr. Wolf?, an ambitious indie-rock album that showed great potential. Wild Young Hearts matches that potential and beyond. Arming themselves with a team of co-writers, string arrangers, studio musicians, and the like, the Noisettes seem to be the only band around willing to take a chance on big, Motown-style production and epic melodies. And it sure pays off.
Let’s start at the beginning. The album hits with the title-track, a crazy mix of The Clash and Rogers & Hammerstein. Or maybe you can imagine The Sex Pistols playing “Edelweiss.” Following “Wild Young Hearts” is “Don’t Upset The Rhythm (Go Baby Go),” a techno-pop-punk number with killer harmonies and a surprisingly fitting Donna Summer-style string arrangement.
“Never Forget You” has become a hit single in the US due to its groovy bass-line, soulful melody, and theatrical arrangement. This track celebrates the reuniting of long-lost friends, and rarely have I seen such a perfect combination of music and lyrics. When singer Shingai Shoniwa belts out “I’m sorry I’m a little late / You know the stripes on a tiger are hard to change,” I understand the sentiment. It’s like saying, “I know I’m not perfect, old chap, but you love me anyway.” To the contrary, “Saturday Night” tackles the animosity of friends turned enemies. Complete with a dance-inspiring drum/percussion break, “Saturday Night” showcases the ferocity of drummer Jamie Morrison’s playing. Much like Ringo did for The Beatles, Morrison provides the perfect percussive complement to such gorgeous melodies.
“Atticus” is an exegesis on Harper Lee’s famous novel To Kill A Mockingbird. Rather than try to explain the Noisettes’ interpretation of the novel, I will let you explore that yourself. Nonetheless, this acoustic guitar ballad lets the listener experience the joy and beauty of Daniel Smith’s guitar playing. In a musical time full of tricks and effects, Smith’s engaging, intimate playing is a breath of fresh air. Meanwhile, “Every Now And Then” has a melody and arrangement reminiscent of the early 20th century jazz vocal standards. Been listening to Gershwin lately, Noisettes?
“24 Hours” again contains a perfect marriage of words and melody. This tale of short-lived romance launches into a full-fledged existential dilemma. “How blue it can seem when life is not what it should be,” sings Shoniwa amid a musical backdrop of innocence and sincerity. In “Beat Of My Heart,” the Noisettes toy with youthful playfulness, memorable synth motifs, and a gravity-defying guitar solo. Following this, the ballad “Sometimes” brings us back to deep, unanswerable existential dilemmas: “Are we looking for the ones we hurt / Just to forgive us in the future?”
As one might expect, Wild Young Hearts ends with the best song on the album: “Cheap Kicks.” With a (once again) captivating melody, a perfectly orchestrated arrangement, a bold interlude, and a wonderfully lingering ending, “Cheap Kicks” offers the listener a comprehensive, full throttle experience. On top of this, Shoniwa’s lyrics sound like William Butler Yeats became female and joined a rock band. “So now loathe me, goin’ to the dark side / And I’m in somebody’s arms to keep you off my mind” hit me like a semi-truck. It has been awhile since a rock song has brought me to tears. Shoniwa is quickly rising as one of my favorite lyricists (imagine: Paul Simon, Bernie Taupin, Bob Dylan, and Shingai Shoniwa).
If you buy one new album this year, buy Wild Young Hearts. It is a penetrating, comprehensive piece of art that will stand out as a masterpiece in your collection. Like any great art, the album could – and should – be explored in depth. The lyrics are multifaceted and ripe with metaphor, esoteric references, and symbolism. Jim Abiss’s production is tastefully layered and complex, reminding me of the production on Ray Charles’s Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music. The string arrangements give a poignant example of melody complementation, and the songwriting is stellar. In addition, Shoniwa’s vocal abilities and phrasing are as brilliant as those of Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday. And for those who wish not dissect every aspect of this phenomenal album, it is a great impetus to recapturing your own Wild Young Heart.