Labelled “this years Coldplay” (despite the fact that the Irish band have been releasing albums for 2 years longer), the anthemic single “Run” crashed into both the Irish and UK charts, and with it increased sales of their 2003 album, “Final Straw”, along with inspiring a re-release of the album.
Allegedly named due to the fact that neither of their previous releases, 1998’s “Songs For Polar Bears” and 2001’s “When This Is All Over, We Still Have To Clear Up” managed to break the band into the big time, band leader Gary Lightbody saw this as the last chance for the band to make it big – and succeeded. Final Straw is bigger, bolder, and ever-so-slightly more mainstream than their previous releases.
Lightbody’s Scottish/Northern Irish superband side-project, the Reindeer Section, has seemingly had a huge influence on Final Straw. Gone are the indie undertones, the disjointed rhythms of their last album, to be replaced by big choruses (the aforementioned “Run”), beautiful ballads (the moving “Grazed Knees”), and guitar-led pop gems (“Wow”).
The Reinder Section’s previous album, Son of Evil Reindeer, was a haunting, acoustic-guitar-oriented stunning piece of work, pulling in members of such luminaries as Belle & Sebastian, and Idlewild. Lightbody has moved some of this acoustica to Snow Patrol, and it has brought with it a more mass-audience appeal.
“How To Be Dead”, the first single off the album, deals with the calm acceptance of the ending of a relationship, and this is followed up by “Wow”, a pounding insistence that everything will be okay. “Gleaming Auction” is a bitter riposte to a demanding partner, buried in reverb and electronica. Other album highlights include “Chocolate” (a slow-building, sweet-melodied admission of fear & lies), the aforementioned “Run” (dealing with the promises made & broken over the course of a relationship), and the album closer “Same” (the aural equivalent of the old excuse “It’s not you, it’s me” – “maybe somewhere else will not be half as cold as me”).
Each song on Final Straw, although from different stables, deals with the same thing – heartache, pure and simple. Lightbody and company have relationship issues, and have leveraged this to produce a masterpiece. If this is Snow Patrol’s last album, then they’ve left us with quite a swansong. But I, for one, hope that we’ll be seeing more of these Northern Ireland bitter-sweet romantics.