Nutini’s third album might well be his very own Back To Black. For some reason, he has often been disregarded as nothing more than a teen pop singer. On Caustic Love, not only does he sound more confident than he ever has, but he also makes a powerful musical statement.
His songwriting abilities have been on display since his very first album, but musically These Streets was a very simple record in many ways and the instruments were very much in the background. On Sunny Side Up, they slowly started to move forward and songs like ‘Coming Up Easy’ were Nutini’s first forays into 60s soul. Five years later, he is back with his most accomplished album yet, full to the brim with musical intricacies. Be it guitars, saxophones, strings, piano or bass, they have never sounded so important and at the core of his songs as they do here.
To me, Caustic Love often sounds like a jazz album because of the way the instruments and individual performances are put forward. There are musical and cultural references throughout too, from 60s soul and 70s funk (Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding notably come to mind) to Charlie Chaplin. So, yes it is steeped in the 60s and 70s, but it also sounds more present and vital than anything he’s done.
‘Iron Sky’ is probably the best thing he’s ever done, the kind of uplifting song that sends shivers down your spine . It starts out sounding very cold and bleak, but gradually builds into a spellbinding climax. Nutini’s voice sounds both fragile and on the verge of breaking and downright thrilling and powerful. Do have a look at the Abbey Road Live Session below, it is a must-watch.
Most surprising, though, is ‘Diana’, a fantastic three minute soul song. Musically, there are hints of D’Angelo and the neo-soul movement (something also evident on ‘Looking for Something’). The echoing guitar in the chorus and Nutini’s high-pitched singing get me every time.
If the songs are not all top-notch, the performances are. Musically, there is always something to look out for in every song, from intricate guitar and bass licks to other piano and string arrangements.
Paolo Nutini has grown and Caustic Love shows the extent of his talent. Even better, the very last song on the album, ‘Someone Like You’, is as good as anything The Drifters have done.
by Brice Detruche