REVIEW: Paolo Nutini’s “Caustic Love”

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After a 5 year absence, Paolo Nutini has finally given us some new music with his third album, Caustic Love.  Just don’t expect it to sound like anything you’ve heard from him before.  His first 2 albums had a nice mix of sunny pop/rock sound that borrowed from funk and reggae.  Here, the Scottish singer has gone for a harsher rock sound that would fit right alongside the greats of 1970s rock music.

He opens the album with the “Scream (Funk My Life Up)” (and yes, despite what your ears might think, the lyrics is funk), and it’s a great icebreaker to the album that is about to get a lot darker.  Then on “Let Me Down Easy”, he takes Bettye Lavette’s 1965 soul hit and turns it seamlessly into a duet instead of just sampling the track. It’s got a angry simmer to it as the two singers combine to croon about a love lost.

nutiniHaving a feel of his previous tracks “New Shoes” and “Coming Up Easy”, “Numpty” gets about as close to Paolo’s previous sound as you’re gonna get here.  It’s a breath of fresh air, as things get rather solemn from there.  A lot of the album has a feel of psychedelic rock that recalls Cream, Jefferson Airplane, and The Mamas And The Papas, but it feels too sleepy on several tracks. “One Day” fails to really take hold, “Better Man” is a sweet love song that has a nice build, but it makes you long for the superior James Morrison track by the same name, while “Iron Sky” tries to be more epic than it really turns out to be.

“Diana” gets it right though.  Starting with a funky keyboard, it adds drums to its laid-back groove.  Things take an about-face with “Fashion”.  A track featuring a rap verse from Janelle Monae, that sounds exactly like a Monae track.  Nutini sounds great on it.  Prince would be proud. It would have been nice to hear Janelle and Paolo combine voices instead of just having Janelle reduced to a rap verse.

Things switch up again for a more Creedence Clearwater Revival sound for “Looking For Something” and “Cherry Blossom”, before wrapping up with the brief “Someone Like You”, a stunningly simple closer.

Paolo said for this new album that he was focused on not repeating his previous work, and while that’s something to applaud, he doesn’t seem to decide on what that new sound will be.  This comes across as a solid, but mixed bag from a talented artist searching for a new identity.  Thank goodness the guy is insanely talented so he can hold it together, but let’s just hope he’s got it all figured out better next time around.

Grade:  B-


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