Words: ROBIN MUMFORD
When the human condition is exposed to isolation from social reciprocity, the mind will always keep ticking. Depending on the character, it could make or break someone – something that was flagrantly palpable in the demise of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett in the late 60s.
But in some cases, a break from the rest of the world will push the summit of a musician to new heights. Back with a brand-new pair of shoes, and, ultimately, an experimentally avant-garde direction in his music, Paolo Nutini has released his first album in eight years, and it’s a far cry from the hasty, breakneck flavours that the remarkable Caustic Love production headlined in 2014.
Instead, Nutini, who was, and still is, one of the very few male musicians capable of turning teenage boys into screeching fan girls with just his growling voice and evergreen eyes, has returned from a period of retrospection to bring his fanbase a refined, full-fledged collection of ballads that enkindle cordial dispositions and a status quo that depicts navel-gazing.
For his entire career, which is a lot shorter than first remembered, the Paisley-born Glaswegian has been accustomed to chasing Platinum releases from day dot. The groovy, rasping pop songs in his repertoire were popular among many, but for those who love Nutini for his voice and storytelling, ‘Last Night In The Bittersweet’ feels like the highlight of his career.
It may not be the funky, groovy Nutini we all remember hearing on the radio every morning before work and school, but the maturity that takes hold of the latest release sees the Scotsman provide listeners with undertones of his musical prowess in a more humbled environment. The hiatus in his life has led him down a path that has awakened his senses and emotions, enlivening his soul in a manner that mellows the core of his productions and homes in on the very best of what Nutini has to offer.
In the opening song ‘Afterneath’, there is certainly no better track to announce the versatility of the Scotsman, with the psychedelic social commentary also being used to stipulate the mammoth leap taken to address a whole host of genres through the 16-track album. From the first minute to the very last, ‘Last Night In The Bittersweet’ is a sprawling array of styles, from the beautiful and haunting washes that are found in ‘Through The Echoes’ to the post-punk themes of ‘Lose It’ – which would remind listeners of a frowzy, perhaps sombre, Radiohead production.
Certainly, Paolo Nutini has changed his music drastically in his fourth studio release, but there are still backscattering of his former-self dipped and dabbed in some of his latest masterpieces that will evoke nostalgia in fans that long for the old Nutini.
This is most profound in ‘Desperation’, which leans towards being the fastest paced track on the album. But it also gives the spotlight to Nutini’s transfixing guitar skills, which is often a pearl within his singles that is often forgotten about. Featuring a blend of rigid power and atmospheric sliding, the riffs found in the 13th track are nothing short of mesmerising.
Another honourable mention in a catalogue of near-perfect songs is ‘Take Me Take Mine’, which favours an approach that offers beauty and sincerity in its most clarified embodiment. Mellow and charming, this track twinkles as an echo of Nutini’s self-inflicted partitioning that made head room for him to combine past experiences with wiser perspectives and forge songs that are more distilled and delicate.
Each song throughout ‘Last Night In The Bittersweet’ has a tendency to bring out the best in the Glaswegian superstar. Whether that be his gripping vocals, his dewy-eyed recountals, or hypnotic guitar riffs, every track from one to 16 feels extraordinarily sentimental.
To call this album simple would be doing an injustice to the ambition and experiment that drove its creation. But in its simplest form, ‘Last Night In The Bittersweet’ feels like the album that completes Nutini’s set. It shows how versatile he is, how thought-provoking he can be, and it is a collection of purified singles that achieve what his past two releases didn’t.
For those who haven’t yet unravelled the secrets of the newest release, then it must be warned to never expect anything with Nutini anymore, apart from, of course, the fact it is bound to be special. The latest album is a construct of a Nutini we’ve never seen or heard before.
Paolo Nutini left his platinum musical journey in 2014 as a young man that became fixated on deluging all his passion into every record, exploding with powerful harmonies and full-bodied vocalism. But after taking shade under the umbrella of the mind, being forced to evaluate under the pressure of his cognitive thoughts, he returns in 2022 as a wiser musician who knows his strengths and weaknesses, allowing him to resurrect past achievements into an expansive new brand of beautiful music.
The only thing left to be desired in the return of Nutini, the comeback king, is the hankering that we won’t have to wait too long for another showpiece production.