The Next Snow Patrol Album Is Going to Suck
So I recently saw Snow Patrol live for the second time. They have come to town twice in support of their sorta-breakthrough album Final Straw. I have to say that I really wish I could have seen them live before the release of that album.
I became a fan of Snow Patrol back in 2001 with When It’s All Over We Still Have to Clear Up, an eclectic album that can alternately recall Belle & Sebastian, the Beta Band, My Bloody Valentine and Lou Barlow. There are pulse-pounding rocks songs like “Last Ever Lone Gunman” and wonderful quiet songs like “Batten Down the Hatch,” along with quirky songs like “Chased by… I Don’t Know What” that recall their even-wilier debut album Songs for Polar Bears. When It’s All Over also has some great lyrics about relationships gone bad, from the contrite “On/Off” to the inebriated fury of the devastating title track. I absolutely loved this album and no one else I knew had even heard of it.
Cut to last year when I saw them live and I was surrounded by teenage girls and jockish boys shouting “fuck yeah!” as Snow Patrol launches into their radio single, the anthemic “Run.” Could these people really be catching on to the same indie rock that I’ve been a fan of for several years? Mmm, no, probably not.
“YouguyssoundlikeColdplay!” was the cheer of one enthused audience member.
The truth is, when I listened to Final Straw for the first time, the Snow Patrol I knew and loved was there, but at the same time there seemed to be an attempt to create WB Channel-ready pop songs that are neither too weird nor too profound. It was interesting to me, though, since this pop rock was infused with an indie sensibility that I enjoyed, like the Loveless-ish wailing guitars of songs like “Gleaming Auction.” But all in all, I could sense a strain in the songwriting that felt like an attempt at broadening the band’s popularity that, oh!, just happened to coincide with their signing to A&M Records.
So there I was, watching Snow Patrol do their best to entertain an audience that wouldn’t have given a shit about them merely one album ago. Case in point, they were barely able to pull out any of their older songs except for those that most closely resembled the new album. The only time they really seemed to enjoy themselves on stage was during the performance of the rock song “Post Punk Progression,” a recent b-side more loopy and exciting than anything on Final Straw.
During this most recent show, they played even fewer of their old songs. They did break out “Batten Down the Hatch,” but had done their best to reconstruct it as a pop rock song, since there was surely no one in the audience that was going to sit through a song that’d be right at home on Belle & Sebastian’s The Boy With the Arab Strap.
Now for the worst part… at this show, frontman Gary Lightbody announced that they were going to play several songs that they were writing for the new album and launched into one of them, a flaccid and forgettable Coldplay imitation with astoundingly facile lyrics. This was a band that I liked much more than I ever have Coldplay (who I haven’t bothered to follow since Parachutes… which I didn’t even buy until I could find it for under ten bucks) who I now felt was producing inferior imitations of that multi-platinum band.
Perhaps it’s unfair to suggest that this is why Snow Patrol’s bassist recently quit the band, so I won’t do that (snicker, snicker). But I’ve gone from being a tried and true fan of a band to no longer being sure that I’m even going to purchase their next album. Is this a problem?
No, it probably isn’t.
First of all, I’m glad that Snow Patrol, who carved out two great albums while probably also working shitty day jobs back in Scotland, have gained enough success now that they can most likely actually rely on their music as their main source of income. Good for them.
Furthermore, even though I’ve lost a great indie rock band after two albums, I do feel that as far as popular music goes, Snow Patrol is one of the best bands getting mainstream radio airtime… although I’m not certain how much, since I do not own a radio (and proudly so!). Plus, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gary Lightbody’s super-group side project the Reindeer Section becomes the bastion for the kind of songwriting he was doing before, so there’s still hope that everyone can go home happy.
So when it comes down to it, there’s no real tragedy here, even if the next Snow Patrol album is, by my prediction, going to be like the last album minus all the good things that had carried over from the previous albums. Even if I don’t purchase it, there are twenty frat guys and their high school girlfriends waiting to snap it up. So I suppose that Snow Patrol has nothing to worry about.