I remember listening to Paolo Nutini’s first album (‘These Streets’) on the way to school almost every morning when I was about 8 years old. I didn’t know who he was, but I knew I enjoyed the music. I didn’t hear much of his second album (‘Sunny Side Up’) as I developed new tastes and so for me, Nutini dropped off the scene and I didn’t hear about him again until very recently. But now he’s definitely back, with a steamy new album ‘Caustic Love’. It’s a different style for Nutini as he ditches the acoustic guitar and dons a rugged leather jacket look, but his voice is what captivates me. It’s beautifully raspy and sounds like warm autumn leaves crunching under your feet.
The first song on the album slid its way into the charts at the start of the year and no wonder. ‘’Scream (Funk My Life Up)’’ literally makes you want to scream, in a good way. It’s slightly repetitive, but full of feel-good funk and dripping with lust. Definitely a summer favourite.
Much of the album is packed with groovy, modern tunes with a retro, throwback twist. ‘’Let Me Down Easy’’ shows Nutini’s voice contrasting with the interwoven snippets of the 1965 Bettye Lavette song, and the bluesy ‘’Numpty’’ brings 50s funk back with a melody not dissimilar to a Mac DeMarco song, whereas the slower ‘’One Day’’ wouldn’t be out of place in a Bridget Jones movie. However, Nutini does temporarily bring the acoustic back out for the tender and sentimental ‘’Better Man’’ where he serenades us with a relaxed ballad.
For many of the songs, the change lyrics-wise hasn’t been huge (in that he’s still pining after girls), but it’s evident he’s experimenting more as he gets ideas about religion, change and politics across. The raw and majestic ‘’Iron Sky’’ shows this most clearly, creating a powerful peak in the album. It features an intense build up and touches on the psych rock genre, with a striking and moving snippet of Charlie Chaplin’s monologue in ‘The Great Dictator’ adding a sense of urgency to the song. Trumpets then burst in, leading the listener to feel empowered and basic ally want to start a revolution, it’s incredible.
The Prince-like ‘’Diana’’ glides in next, with a sultry jazz vibe that shows off Nutini’s falsetto, followed by the funk rock, Bowie-esque ‘’Fashion’’, a huge change from ‘’Iron Sky’’ as he talks about a model’s sex appeal. Next is the simple yet soulful ‘’Looking For Something’’ and then the psych rock ‘’Cherry Blossom’’. The album ends with ‘’Someone Like You’’, short and sweet.
I like how the album touches on a few genres and therefore can’t be defined, just like Nutini himself who is clearly trying to find his own style. There’s an under layer of 60s soul and funk throughout, with threads of hip hop and indie rock/pop woven together with Nutini’s aged, smoky and gritty voice. He many have grown up, but he’s still got a youthful twinkle in his eye; let’s hope it isn’t another 5 year wait for his next album.