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Snow Patrol “Eyes Open” (Album Review)

The best thing that Snow Patrol have ever done is the beautifully maudlin break-through epic single ‘Run’. This is no idle statement but more of an identifiable factor to what the band can achieve if they really put their heart into it. Snow Patrol’s other most successful knack is to write catchy yet simple songs that are easily hummable, uplifting and radio-friendly. Whilst their first two albums (1998’s “Song For Polarbears” and 2001’s “When It’s All Over We Still Have To Clear Up”) didn’t really gain themselves more than a small but rabidly loyal fan-base, the sophomore release of the 2004 album “Final Straw” pushed them, over the course of a couple of months, into the mainstream. The album was a huge turning point for the band: their success brought them a busy headline tour, a support slot for U2, and even an all-too-short appearance at Live8 last summer.

The band’s formula of hands-aloft sing-a-longs (designed to lift the roof of concert arena’s round the world) saw both the album and band charmingly poke their way into the collective consciousness. Whilst Radiohead (or, to a lesser extent, Blur) have experimented heavily in the studio, distancing themselves from former glories instead of trading on them (yes Oasis, I’m looking at you), Snow Patrol – like Coldplay last year – use the old adage of “if it ain’t broke…” Without going down the risky road of trying to discover a new/different sound/genre, Snow Patrol instead get down to what they do best: songs that don’t just tug on the heartstrings, but instead swing from them proclaiming how hard life can be. Ironically, their greatest asset (like Oasis back in their own glory days) is to see the good in everything: they make even the most depressing situation have an upbeat and positive side – “every cloud has a silver lining…” and other Hallmark clichés – and this lack of negativity is somewhat appealing.

The album starts with the cheery swirling jingle-jangle of lead single ‘You’re All I Have’ (in America, ‘Hands Open’ is the first single released from “Eyes Open” instead), which shimmies its way into your brain, in the same infectious way that ‘Chocolate’ did two summers previously. In fact, the vast majority of the tracks on this album have a light and sunny vibe to them, but with darker lyrics. For instance, the aforementioned ‘Hands Open’ couples stompy guitar with angst-ridden (as usual) lyrics like “Why Would I sabotage / the best thing that I have?” Gary Lightbody makes intimate relationships (and the impending break-up or fall-out) sound as if the listener is welcome in such a voyeuristic intrusion. The songs on this album seem specifically designed to lift the spirits with beefy sing-a-longs, and ‘Hands Open’ is a perfect example: just imagine, with lighters aloft and flags waving everywhere, the words “Hands Open and my eyes open / I just keep hoping that your heart opens” sung out to you. Deliciously heart-warming isn’t it?! If you like that sort of thing naturally.

The obvious album stand-out (and perhaps most ‘Run’-esque song of the bunch) is the utterly glorious ‘Make This Go On Forever’. Over a simple and quietly understated piano intro, Lightbody implores: ‘Please don’t let this turn into something it’s not / I can only give you everything I’ve got’. As the guitar begins its gentle strumming and the background vocals and orchestra swell, the song hits a Phil Spector wall-of-sound choir that, fittingly, you wish WOULD go on forever. Although I’m cynical of emotion-by-numbers dirge, you cannot help but feel this song naturally wash over you, all the while cursing yourself for falling victim to yet another slow-burning ballad – all the way to its begging “please just save me from this darkness” outro. If ‘Run’ was Snow Patrol’s ‘The Scientist’, then ‘Make This Go On Forever’ is their ‘Fix You’. As an extension to this, “Eyes Open” is a front-runner to challenge Coldplay’s overplayed and strangely barren “X&Y”.
By J. M. Ross.