At the end of February, Paolo Nutini released a live version of ‘Iron Sky’ on YouTube, a song from his upcoming album. It followed the pre-release of single ‘Scream (Funk My Life Up)’. The video, filmed in Abbey Road, showed a new maturity in Nutini’s sound. It was melancholic and soulful, a critique on the constraints of society. The single was critically acclaimed; even Adele described it as “one of the best things” she’d heard in her life.
‘Iron Sky’ is certainly one Nutini’s strongest pieces of work, both musically and lyrically. Where his first albums dabbled in young love and mischief making, each with their own playful feel and summery touch, ‘Iron Sky’ shows undertones of pain and frustration. An excerpt from Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ is played over a bridge: “You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men!” Its inclusion is not cliché, but purposeful and heartfelt. In the five years since ‘Sunny Side Up’, Nutini has clearly grown as a musician, and this is exemplified through a strong and emotional delivery.
On 14 April, Atlantic Records released ‘Caustic Love’. In places, it is raw soul music, and it makes the heart bleed. ‘Let Me Down Easy’ is a particular highlight, its warm tones reminiscent of Amy Winehouse’s album ‘Frank’. The track is supported by gorgeous acoustic number ‘Better man’, a song that contrasts with the boyish charm of his early work, followed by the fantastic ‘Iron Sky’.
However, unlike the mix-tape feel of ‘Sunny Side Up’, this album lacks in variety. Aside from its three standout tracks, ‘Caustic Love’ feels slightly half-hearted in its production. It’s padded with interludes ‘Bus Talk’ and ‘Superfly’, which feel like little more than rough sketches. There is no questioning Nutini’s skill as a vocalist – his voice is as gruff and thunderous as always – but there isn’t a track that eclipses the beauty of ‘Iron Sky’. In an interview with BBC Music, Nutini said, “Ideally, I’d like another album out within a year […] and go back to some raw and uncomplicated acoustic tracks”. Hopefully, taking a more simplistic route will better reflect his talents as a soul singer. And, hopefully, we won’t have to hear any more ‘Bus Talk’.