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Snow Patrol - Wildness (Album Review)

Friday, 01 June 2018 Written by Simon Ramsay

Snow Patrol have always polarised opinions. To some, they’re sensitive new age guys who craft heart-on-sleeve indie-pop anthems. To others, their music is over-earnest, bland and edgeless. After seven years away, their comeback album, ‘Wildness’, is unlikely to change either of those viewpoints.

Mood and context are everything with Snow Patrol. Their songs certainly aren’t party-starters, possibly because they often lack a tangible pulse and have been flogged to death on the radio. Yet if a lingering post break up malaise has swallowed you whole, albums like ‘Final Straw’ and ‘Eyes Wide Open’ make a lot more sense.

A key part of their appeal is affable singer and lead songwriter Gary Lightbody, and there has always been something genuinely expressive about his world worn delivery and searching lyrics.

‘Wildness’ finds Lightbody charting his recovery from alcoholism, finding answers and reconnecting with a sense of belonging and humanity. The result is the most thematically focused record the band has created.  

Having clearly dug deep to uncover truths he could neither face nor understand before, the excellent Youth Written In Fire is emblematic of Lightbody’s struggles with addiction. Possessing sampled beats, a childish falsetto and electronic, MGMT-style touches, it levitates into an anthemic epiphany of a chorus. Heal Me, despite a sub-par hook, soundtracks a spirited rebirth, and the haunting Soon, which discusses his father’s life with dementia, is achingly crooned in the manner of Rufus Wainwright’s Dinner At Eight.

In many ways ‘Wildness’ is a brave comeback. There’s no obvious hit single here – although Empress is a catchy moment about communal power – and they haven’t cynically tried to write another Chasing Cars. If anything, the LP is more concerned with conveying its lyrical sentiments in the best way possible.

The band utilise textures from Peter Gabriel, Nick Cave and world music to produce a consistent sonic feel that’s different to its predecessors. Dark Switch is a true stand out, shooting for the contemporary by deploying funky R&B dancefloor grooves and an infectious, pulsing chorus to great effect. The reflective, folky rallying cry Life On Earth is also hypnotically atmospheric as it recalls the elemental back-to-the-earth primacy of Midlake’s ‘The Courage Of Others’. It doesn’t half plod, mind.

And there's the rub. In spite of laudable qualities, many of the band’s old flaws remain. There’s still insomnia-curing filler like Life and Death, while too many hooks are average, moribund fare. The group often struggle to strike the right momentum, both within a song and over the course of the whole record. Lightbody’s falsetto, meanwhile, is overused and grates when he mimics Anohni on What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get.  

Elsewhere, Don’t Give In is awful. The singer’s strangulated croak is over exaggerated, unnecessary and suggests he’s trying to mask the song’s obvious weaknesses. Billed as a number about hanging in there and fighting depression, it falls well short of striking any sort of inspirational note.

Despite their best efforts, and some enjoyable moments, Snow Patrol’s musical character, and even Lightbody’s once crucial singing, sound anachronistic now that the scene they once belonged to has been put out to pasture. Some will agree with that assessment. Others won’t. Business as usual, then.

Snow Patrol Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed December 05 2018 - NEWCASTLE Metro Radio Arena
Fri December 07 2018 - BELFAST SSE Arena
Tue December 11 2018 - DUBLIN 3Arena
Fri January 25 2019 - BIRMINGHAM Arena
Sat January 26 2019 - LONDON O2 Arena
Tue January 29 2019 - LEEDS first direct Arena
Wed January 30 2019 - MANCHESTER Arena
Thu January 31 2019 - GLASGOW SSE Hydro

Click here to compare & buy Snow Patrol Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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