Irish rock group Snow Patrol is too often unfairly compared to Coldplay, but both bands are cut from the same cloth. Sensitive lead singer? Check. Striving for universal truths? Check. Over-done sentimentality and romanticism? Check. Soaring choruses? Double check. However 2006’s Eyes Open had much more muscle than Coldplay’s X & Y and this year’s disappointing Viva La Vida. How does Snow Patrol’s latest record, A Hundred Million Suns, stack up against the competition?
The album opens with the glittery “If There’s a Rocket Tie Me To It,” which acts as a manifesto for lead singer Gary Lightbody and crew. He cries out, declaring, “A fire a fire, you can only take what you can carry / A pulse your pulse, it’s the only thing I can remember / I break you don’t, I was always set to self destruct though / The fire the fire, it cracks and barks like primal music.” Remember those soaring choruses I was talking about? Well this one sails to the fucking moon.
The next track, “Crack The Shutters,” gets a bit schmaltzy (“Crack the shutters open wide / I want to bathe you in the light of day”), but it carries the energy well via pounding piano and light touches of glockenspiel.
After that, A Hundred Million Suns starts to lose me. The album’s first single, “Take Back the City” just sounds kind of lame and limp. No song should have the lyrics, “‘Cause the fun just never stops,” unless it’s a hip-hop track or meant for kids.
Snow Patrol’s Eyes Open distinguished itself from the radio-friendly alternative-rock pack because it had a real bite and urgency to the entire record, but on most of the A Hundred Million Suns, the band sounds either bored or insecure.
“Lifeboats” sounds like a bad Coldplay rip-off, “Engines” sounds like the band trying out its best U2 impersonation and “Golden Floor” just sounds like soulless attempt at getting a song to sound “Spanish.”
The 16-minute closer, “Lightening Strike,” sounds properly epic in scope, of “A Day In The Life”-level (albeit less imaginative) proportions. However, nothing in the track stands out, and it won’t be a song you would actively listen to on the album.
The drive of “Please Take These Photos From My Hands” and the quiet intimacy “Set Down Your Glass” redeem many of the albums shortcomings, but overall I feel that the whole experience ends being a bit bland. I know Snow Patrol have what it takes to be a good band. They’ve delivered a great album before and A Hundred Million Suns has a little bit of light, but let’s hope they can step it up next time.