Racking Up Plays: “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” by Noah and the Whale

These are the posts where I gush about some song that I’ve got a huge crush on at the moment, and you put up with it and listen because you’re a good friend.

“L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.,” Noah and the Whale

None of these guys from Noah and the Whale are named Noah. The band's name is reference to director Noah Baumbach's excellent film "The Squid and the Whale." (via Facebook)

Between this and “T.O.R.N.A.D.O.” by The Go! Team, it’s been a good year for songs that unnecessarily spell out their hooks.

It has quite the whiz-bang opening, too:

Lisa likes brandy and the way it hits her lips
She’s a rock ‘n’ roll survivor with pendulum hips

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you start a song. In just 25 short syllables, making use of lots of pleasing consonance and lyrical rhythm, Noah and the Whale singer Charlie Fink sets the tone for “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.,” the latest single from the English folk-rock group; introduces a character; and makes you feel for her. Or maybe that’s just me. I’m a sucker for sad tales of aging dive-bar beauties, e.g. Against Me!‘s  “Thrash Unreal” or The Hold Steady‘s “Joke About Jamaica.”

Then, before you can say O.B.L.A.D.I.O.B.L.A.D.A. (which actually takes a few good seconds), the band launches into a sing-song chorus with a feel-good message: Everything will be OK as long as you follow your heart. Awwww.

There’s also something about this song, and the bridge in particular, that reminds me of late-’80s Tom Petty. It could be all the jangly guitar. It could be the mile-wide chorus of backup singers. It could be the the scooping vocal affection Fink adapts when he sings, “I’ll pay a high price.” Even if that was something Noah and the Whale was purposefully gunning for, it doesn’t bother me one bit. In fact, more bands ought to be emulating late-’80s Tom Petty.

Fink isn’t interested in delving into or mythologizing his protagonists the way The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn does, but he creates some vivid sketches with some well-chosen details. Still, the more I think about “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.,” the more I think it’s not meant to be thought about in great detail. It’s a lark of a song, intended to the grab the listener with spitfire verses and a gimmicky chorus. I’ll even bet you’re going to spend some time figuring out just how all those letters line up with the syncopated melody, just so you can have the chorus running through your head as you go about your day.

Noah and the Whale have a double-header next month at The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco. Shows are at 8 p.m. May 26 and 9 p.m. May 27. Tickets are $18 in advance both nights.


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