Snow Patrol - Eyes Open
Snow Patrol's third LP 'Final Straw' was a warm and rather lovely record that propelled them from indie underachievers to ubiquitous kings of Woolworths in the time it took to say 'Run'. The cash from a surprise deal with Polydor was well spent on its colourful production, but the lick of paint merely emphasised what was by far their strongest set of tunes to date.
Which is why it's such a disappointment that this record opens with such a weak selection of tracks. Characterless single 'You're All I Have' is a pale shadow of 2003's 'Spitting Games', even managing to lose singer Gary Lightbody's soft accent in the mix, while 'Hands Open' is the crunch of US alt-rock diluted and forced to march to a rhythm boxier than a wardrobe in a Volvo, and almost as dull.
Five tracks in, the sparky 'It's Beginning To Get To Me' - ironically where Lightbody's endless relationship-in-trouble lyrics begin to grate - is where the record as a whole starts to find its feet. The glockenspiel and strings in 'You Could Be Happy', plus some bewitching guest vocals from Martha Wainwright all add weight and emotional resonance, wringing out drops of the sweet sadness that SP do so well, whilst 'Open Your Eyes' is something of a victory dance; pounding away against lush strings, it feels like the fullest realisation of the band's current sound, perhaps even the conclusion of this chapter of their career. Pulsing, atmospheric closer 'The Finish Line' certainly hints that they have other, more interesting musical ideas up their sleeves, and what price a reinvention of sorts for next time out?
Whilst pondering this review, the one thing I didn't want to end up writing was that this record pushes few boundaries but shouldn't disappoint fans - or end up using that damned word, 'Alright'. Annoyingly however that's exactly what it is; tuneful enough and created with obvious love, yet frustratingly patchy and too dependent on an established formula. Still, as it hovers around the very top of the charts, it's fair to say that Snow Patrol won't be all that bothered. And neither will the canny scout from Polydor, currently off choosing a colour scheme for his speedboat.