I don't really wish to dwell on the other reviews here. I've heard the album so I feel some of you might like an actual review of it....
Firstly, I'm not a massive Snow Patrol fan. I've liked the odd track in the past, An Olive Grove Facing the Sea and Off/On being notable examples, but generally speaking I've found their stuff a little too lightweight to enjoy - especially live where Lightbody really struggles voice-wise.
So when the promo of this album plonked into my lap at long last I listened with a pretty impartial ear. And I liked what I heard. Even though it's without doubt Snow Patrol by numbers....
It's clear that the band are aiming for a Coldplay-esque stadium World attack with this album. The first track "If There's A Rocket Tie Me To It" starts as the album goes on and in exactly that fashion. Tuneful plink-plink intro, followed by a heartfelt, delicate Lightbody vocal all about missing his ex-bird before opening up into a huge indie stadium-rock shaped hug. Awww bless.
"Crack The Shutters" follows the same pattern really, with SP sounding more like Chris Martin's bunch with every fretful bash on the piano during the track. Think a more tuneful, less guilty "Chocolate" from Final Straw and you'd be along the same lines. "Crack the shutters open wide/I wanna bathe you in the light of day" says Gary. Again, the stadium swoons.
"Take Back The City" is the oft FM-played lead single, so we all know what Gary's paen to Belfast sounds like by now. Tightly strummed guitars, a bit of woooo o and the story of a city that exists against all odds in many ways. It's clear the bad are proud of where they're from, at least in terms of their Irish roots anyway.
"Lifeboats" is a mellow, groovy track, based around a simple piano and guitar chord structure which opens into a funky basslined story of a relationship set against stormy skies and starry skies.
"The Golden Floor" with it's quirky handclap percussive line shares a great deal with the last track, and once again we're into Snow Patrol by numbers territory. Lightbody sings "I'm not afraid of anything/Even time" over the softly strummed guitar and light handclaps yet sings like he's possibly scared of the sound of his own voice. The track ends with a lush acoustic guitar refrain that ties things up nicely.
"Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands" features those tightly strummed guitars again, except this time their amped up and the knobs are turned up to 6! At least! This track has a massive chorus that's sure to see the live gig going throngs bopping up and down. It gives the track a feel good factor perhaps not best befitting the yet-another-failed-relationship nature of the lyrics.
"Set Down Your Glass" sounds like Snow Patrol of old. It's pastoral, it's acoustic, it's simple and it's honest. It's almost a follow up to "Olive Grove..." with it's chorus of :
"And I'm shaking then I'm still
When your eyes meet mine
I lose simple skills
Like to tell you all I want is now"
Another Coldplay-esque track follows in the shape of "The Planets Bend Between Us" a track that sounds a little mournful but actually is incredibly uplifting lyrically :
"I will race you to the waterside
And from the edge of Ireland shout out loud
So they could hear it in a America
It's all for you"
Perhaps Mr Lightbody has found happiness at last? The track has a simple piano, bass and drum backline with some of those chiming guitars that uptight white indie boys love so much these days. There's no huge climax. Just a band pouring out their hearts, or so it sounds. Expect it to punch your heart out when you least expect it through an FM station near you soon.
"Engines" thunders it's was along in a bassy, widescreen way before it blossoms into a chiming anthem for the lost. Quite beautiful really. All that techno sample from the first minute or so transforms from rainclouds musically, into a sunny day. Something the Snowies do so well I think. And a definite little niche they've carved for themselves.
"Disaster Button" sounds like every track you hated by US college boy frat bands. Best leave it there I think. The weakest point on the album I think. But another Snow Patrol big chorus, sure to please new fans.
The album closes with, as you've probably read already, somewhat of a departure for the band in the shape of a brave three song-spliced-together orchestral masterpiece entitled "The Lightening Strike". Part 1 of this piece sounds like A Frames track; menacing, crescendoing, orchestral, dark and worried....dare I even chuck in a Beatles reference here? Think the end bit to "A Day In The Life" and you won't go far wrong, especially not in the sampling work. The Beatles thing continues in the middle section, with a backwards percussive line a jarring guitar track. The song ends with an expansive, stadium friendly rock out where it all comes good in the end, replete with guitars, rolling chorus and lots of chiming and stuff.
To summarise then, a good album and one that'll surely please the old SP fans who enjoyed the bands' more commercial offerings, and will excite to the point of rapture new fans who love huge choruses, lyrics about being rubbish with girls, staring at the stars thinking how unimportant we all are and plenty of stadium friendly chiming guitars with the odd dashing of a choir and a string section thrown in. This album is full of them. And I suspect they'll soon be up there in the musical heavens on both sides of the Atlantic, with those very same stars.