Paolo Nutini - Caustic Love
A record of tonal weirdness that does great things for Nutini as a vocalist of versatility and soul
The underwhelming cod-bluesery of Paolo Nutini’s comeback single ‘Scream (Funk My Life Up)’ opens his third album, and it’s hard to overstate just how much this limp effort fails to sell a record which is by some margin his most interesting yet. It does, however, contain the lyric which unlocks the inspiration behind what follows, as the gravel-voiced son of Paisley scats aimlessly that he’s been ‘smokin’ ma green’. You know, it’s quite possible he has. After the pain of our introduction to the album, ‘Let Me Down Easy’ is a major wrong-foot which reveals both his voice at its well-honed falsetto finest and a smoky kind of soul which pays reference to Bob Marley, not least in Paolo’s demand for ‘red-eh-mpshun’ at the end.
It’s followed by the head-scratching ‘Bus Talk (Interlude)’, a jaw-droppingly weird slice of jive talk and speeded-up vocal effects suggestive of the fact its creator giggled for hours on end over it, and then the tone veers once more into the orchestral sonic grandeur of ‘One Day’, a song which reaches for the emotional swell of Otis Redding and doesn’t do too badly in trying. The brilliantly-named ‘Numpty’ (he’ll have to explain it to his growing army of US fans) is a country-rocking rag, while the mid-section of the record specialises in slow-burn anthems, from ‘Better Man’ to ‘Diana’.
Co-produced by Dani Castelar and Nutini himself, it’s a record whose tonal weirdness is matched by both its commendably executed homages to Nutini’s heroes and the undeniably great things it does for him as a vocalist of versatility and soul. The Janelle Monae-featuring ‘Fashion’ and the pastoral rock of ‘Looking for Something’ and ‘Cherry Blossom’ return the listener to more solid ground, before the clean, voice-only hymnal of ‘Someone Like You’ plays us out with the impression Nutini has been allowed to do exactly what he wants and created a trip of a record that’s all the better for it.
Released on Atlantic Records, Mon 14 Apr. Nutini will play King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow, Fri 28 Mar; Barrowlands, Glasgow, Sat 29 Mar; Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Tue 27 May.