Some vigilant observers of musical trends have expostulated that the field of indie rock lacks musical variety. Taking into consideration the striking similarities between many of the genre’s current prevailing acts (Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, et al.), it would seem hasty to call the accusation a baseless one. Final Straw, the latest release from Snow Patrol, does not deviate momentously from the indie-rock arc, but it could at least be called a step in the right direction.

The album has been released in the United States by A&M Records, not the sort of outfit one normally associates with the idea of an “indie label.” Having started out on the relatively small, infinitely more uppity Jeepster Records (whose big draw is, to put things in perspective, Belle & Sebastian), Snow Patrol have accrued just enough popularity to harness the power of big business, or, perhaps more appropriately, to let the power of big business harness them. This looks to have been, as was the case with Ben & Jerry’s, an improving maneuver.

Though Final Straw retains countless affectations of its stylistic breed – most noticeably sheets of driving distortion guitar, plaintive acoustic strumming and a focus on the depressive – the sound of the music itself clearly indicates that progress, in a certain capacity, is being made. For example, a greater variety of instruments is used, bolstering the anemic level of sonic complexity typically heard from recordings of this sort. Working under what must have been a much larger budget than was given for their previous four albums, Snow Patrol’s work bears a much higher sheen than their peers’. Let’s hope this is an indication of things to come.
[Colin Marshall often wonders how he rates on the grand scale of indieness, if at all.]