CD: Snow Patrol - Wildness Have the Northern Irish gloom-rockers developed a lighter touch?


From The Arts Desk

Few bands divide opinion quite like Snow Patrol. Their fans see their slow, intense anthems as cathartic friends. Others - myself included - tend to regard their music as an insidious, dreary presence. As Nicky Wire (of the Manics) once put it, "the same drab little thing, over and over". Wildness, their first album in seven years, is being billed as being something completely different - more passionate, and with a lighter touch.

Apparently, the shift in musical direction is down to various changes in the band members' lives. Singer Gary Lightbody has given up drinking. He's also been writing for Taylor Swift. Guitarist Johnny McDaid has been composing for the likes of Ed Sheeran and P!nk. But while evidence of these personal and musical developments can, indeed, be seen on Wildness, it's only on a few tracks

The best is the album's opener, "Life on Earth", a spritely tune full of Turin Brakes-style guitars and subtle harmonies. The arrangement is bright and catchy. Then there's "Heal Me", continues the acoustic-pop-rock vibe with hints of Alanis Morissette. Finally, "Wild Horses" is an honest-to-God stripped back, indie track.

Unfortunately, the rest of the LP is simply business as usual. "Empress" is full of Lightbody's trademark over-dramatic, breathy vocals. "Don't Give In" features lyrics that sound like they should be meaningful but aren't. The album's limpest moments are "What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get?" and "Life and Death". The former sounds like Coldplay on Valium. The latter whimpers like a wounded animal.

Of course, some will say that I'm missing the point; that some of the album's themes - like drugs, alcohol and depression - require a certain weight. I'm not buying any of that. In fact, quite the opposite. If Wildness demonstrates anything, it's that Snow Patrol are actually capable of creating perfectly enjoyable AOR rock once they stop writing songs that feel like swimming through porridge.

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