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Snow Patrol - A Hundred Million Suns

Snow Patrol, A Hundred Million Suns

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HAVING established themselves as one of the biggest bands in Britain with their last album Eyes Open (which became the biggest selling album of 2006), Snow Patrol return with A Hundred Million Suns and expectation cranked up to max. Needless to say, they appear to be taking it in their stride.

The album builds on the platform established by its seven-times platinum predecessor to deliver the same astute mix of emotionally-rich, stadium-filling rock. Fans will lap it up, even if the sceptics continue to ponder what the fuss is all about.

But Snow Patrol’s success has always stemmed from their ability to mix honest, often heartbreaking lyricism with an epic rock grandeur befitting the style of their contemporaries such as Coldplay and U2. Ever since breakthrough smash Run, they’ve been building on and refining that style… with tracks like Chasing Cars and Open Your Eyes the pinnacle of what they have to offer.

A Hundred Million Suns hones that ability and delivers some truly gratifying highs. And while there’s nothing too radical to shake-up the formula, they also get to rock out a couple of times, as well as stripping things down to really come over all intimate at others.

Album opener If There’s A Rocket Tie Me To It sets things in motion in fine fashion, opening with an electronic flourish reminiscent of the opener on Coldplay’s latest LP, before layering in the guitars and Gary Lightbody’s fine vocals. Approaching the two-minute mark, it really picks up the pace and hits its stride with the near-obligatory euphoric chorus. Jacknife Lee’s production skills merely augment the sense of grandeur. You’re in familiar territory, for sure, but it’s a fine place to be.

Crack The Shutters follows a similar path, but places the piano to the fore early on as if to emphasise the sentiment in the lyrics, while former single Take Back The City lays down its credentials early on as a crowd-pleasing (and really quite rousing) rocker.

Lifeboats then offers an example of some more diversity, placing some lush acoustic strumming over a more pronounced back-beat early on and really bringing out the most in Lightbody’s emotive style. It’s a highlight.

The Golden Floor, meanwhile, stretches the formula still further, dropping sharp one-two beats and sliced vocals to appealing effect and creating another of the album’s highlights.

Guitars come back to the fore with Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands, a melancholy trip down a regret-laden memory lane inspired by the discovery of some old photos. Like earlier tracks, If There’s A Rocket… and Crack The Shutters, it’s a slow builder that gives rise to a euphoric chorus, and which is probably, even now, being lined up for a key emotional moment in a top-rated American medical drama such as ER or Grey’s Anatomy. It’s evidence of the band’s reach, though, that it’s equally at ease on either side of the Atlantic, tapping into emotions we can all relate to in some way.

Elsewhere, there’s plenty more to savour. Set Down Your Glass offers tender romanticism, set against a simple acoustic strum; Engines adds some fiery electric guitar riffs into the mix and drops a suitably rousing chorus; and Disaster Button underlines their ability to get straight to the heart of the matter in their vocals (“you look a fucking mess”), while again rocking out.

But they save the best til last in the form of the epic, three-part The Lightning Strike, a 16-minute offering that really throws everything in their arsenal at you. Part one, What If The Storm Ends? lays the foundations extremely well, amid swirling pianos, the odd moment of brass, haunting layered vocals and a striking central turn from Lightbody, before part two, The Sunlight Through The Flags sweeps you onwards amid its sprightly – even cinematic – piano loops and (eventually) crunching guitars. But part three, Daybreak, really delivers the icing on the cake, like some enchanting, beautiful sunrise over a vast horizon that’s, by turns, heartbreaking and inspirational.

So, while it may not break with the formula, it does play to its strengths and underlines just why Snow Patrol are so good at what they do. It’s the sound of a band at the peak of their form and firing on all cylinders… and you can’t help but feel utterly impressed.

Download picks: The Lightning Strike, Set Down Your Glass, Crack The Shutters, Lifeboats, The Golden Floor, If There’s A Rocket Tie Me To It

Track listing:

  1. If There’s a Rocket Tie Me To It
  2. Crack The Shutters
  3. Take Back The City
  4. Lifeboats
  5. The Golden Floor
  6. Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands
  7. Set Down Your Glass
  8. The Planets Bend Between Us (For You)
  9. Engines
  10. Disaster Button
  11. The Lightning Strike