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Snow Patrol

Since we reviewed Snow Patrol’s Fallen Empires back in June of last year, they’ve – well, pretty much been on the road this entire time, bringing the tour bus to a halt only after this past holiday season, when they held their Snow Patrol Acoustic Charity Christmas event in Belfast. The UK, the Americas, Europe, Australia, and Asia were all treated to SP shows this year, and the mere fact that they’re being quiet at the moment leads us to believe they’ve probably got big plans for 2013. We certainly hope so.


Snow Patrol | Fallen Empires | Universal

What springs to mind first upon trying to describe Snow Patrol’s music – other than Brit-rock, of course – is anthemic.  Having attended the unofficial U2 School Of Arena Ballads, Snow Patrol have taken that formula and shifted it to a more subtle approach. The guitars are still massive, the drums still boom, and the choruses still ascend skillfully , carrying the listener with them – but singer Gary Lightbody takes Bono’s impassioned, hero stance and makes it more introspective, more weary, even strangely sheepish in places.  Where Bono is the Duke of Brit-rock, Lightbody is more of an unlikely Baron or gentleman farmer – not even quite sure how he acquired his position, but doing his best to stumble along politely and live up to the title.

And this is perhaps the foundation of Snow Patrol’s music.

While U2, in their early days, were fueled by an enthusiastic punk aesthetic, their elder-statesmen status has kind of rendered them… well, rather dull at this point, to be honest. Snow Patrol, on the other hand, are poised to pick up that mantel. What makes Snow Patrol more appealing – other than the obvious components of solid songwriting and Lightbody’s emotional, idiosyncratic vocals – is the fact that they’re kind of the refreshing everyman of the genre. While it’s a given that Snow Patrol are probably comfortable financially at this point after seven albums, the last three of which were pretty darned b-i-g, they still haven’t yet properly broken in the U.S., save some key spots in film and TV soundtracks.  And, in spite of their respectably impressive UK and European success, they’ve (thankfully) yet to recede into that Bono-fied world of opaque sunglasses and gated mansions – you’re more likely to see them ordering chips at the local pub.

On Fallen Empires, there are echoes of Peter Gabriel (most specifically on “The Weight of Love“) and Elbow (the galloping, insistent title track), plus a few lightly-applied experiments with electronica beats and lighter arrangements (and, yes, audio recollections of U2, too.)  But the link from song to song is, once again, Lightbody’s ongoing ineptness in the relationships department, with his flaws and hopes offered up in near equal measure. He wryly outlines mistake after mistake while still carrying on the romantic outlook that someday, somehow, in the orange haze of a foggy Scottish sunset, he will succeed, and so will you.

This Isn’t Everything You Are” and  “Called Out in the Dark” encapsulate that emotion perfectly, with “…You Are’s” chiming chords and hopeful refrain offering reassurance and support to a lovelorn friend.  “… Dark’s” message, by turn, is to carpe diem, seize the day, and take your own responsibility for placing yourself in the kind of upbeat, arms-wide scenario generally only seen in romantic, cityscape movies.

New York” is a specific exercise in that aforementioned subtlety, beginning with just Lightbody’s hushed vocals and piano chords; it will strike a literal chord with anyone who’s been pledged love and then been left behind instead. Snow Patrol are deft at crafting such quiet, yet supremely effective songs – this one being actually so subtle that, without Lightbody’s voice, the song would simply sound like some lost indie-rock classic ballad.

A video that’s been circulating online shows what happens when Lightbody and guitarist  Ed Sheeran  perform the song as buskers in the middle of NYC’s Times Square: absolutely nothing. No one recognizes that it’s Snow Patrol singing right there in front of the TGI Friday’s and the banking billboards, police sirens wailing, tourists milling around  – but, song sung, they grin, shrug, and go on to their next (actual) gig.

It’s not the adoration that matters, really – it’s the songs themselves, and the joy of performing them live. And that’s why this album will likely become yet another fave of Snow Patrol fans, falling right into its proper place in the ever-growing Snow Patrol discography.   – Kristi Kates