Saturday, August 12, 2006

Music Review -- Eyes Open by Snow Patrol

Every once in a while a band seems on the verge of creating an epic album. This often makes the band’s next release seem mediocre compared to expectations. Eyes Open is the follow up to Snow Patrol’s great Final Straw. Final Straw had an amazing combination of textures, sonic influences and modern rock that garnered obvious comparisons to Coldplay and Radiohead. Eyes Open is a wonderful album, but it is a bit disappointing that they made the same transition to arena-ready songs that Coldplay did between A Rush of Blood to the Head and X&Y. The results are still quite good. It would just be nice to see Snow Patrol (and Coldplay) working outside of the parameters of soaring, arena-freiendly songs.

The emphasis here is on Gary Lightbody’s songwriting. These are wonderfully written songs with introspective lyrics that look at every side of bittersweet relationships. The writing is similar to, but even more biting and personal, than Ben Gibbard’s work with Deathcab for Cutie and The Postal Service. The opener is a high energy, sing-along with Lightbody singing, “Electric shocks on aching bones/ There is a darkness deep in you/ A frightening magic I cling to…It’s so clear now you are all that I have/ I have no fear now that you are all that I have…” The lyrical maturity on this album is impressive as the writer’s subjects long for peace, look for anything they can do to force their worlds to behave as they wish and even yearn for anything tragic to rouse them to greater things or personal defeat. On Headlights on Dark Roads he writes, “For once I want to be the car crash/ Not always just the traffic jam/ Hit me hard enough to wake me/ And lead me wild to your dark roads.”

Musically, this is much lighter on sonic influences and heavier on guitar and hook driven tunes than previous efforts. The downfall of the disc is that they try too hard to be catchy and hit an emotional note in song after song. This is an amazingly capable band and Lightbody’s voice is an instrument itself. The producer did a great job not allowing his somewhat wispy voice to be lost under the crunchy guitars, though I wish they would allow him more time singing alone without the constant harmonies.

Maybe someday, Snow Patrol will create their own Sgt. Peppers, but for now they are proving to be one of the best bands around.

3.25 out of 4.00 on the Vin Swanson Scale.

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