Snow Patrol: Fallen Empires [Universal]
Snow Patrol’s sixth album, Fallen Empires, initially has the – obligatory mention – Grey’s Anatomy TV show soundtrack favourites trying to convince us there’s always been a dance element to their music.
Opening tracks I’ll Never Let Go and Called Out In The Dark marry electro-loops and beats to Snow Patrol’s usual stadium rock pop moves. Someone, somewhere must have felt this would unnecessarily upset their conservative fanbase because they soon revert to type.
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Singer-songwriter Gary Lightbody has cited the likes of LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver and Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs as influences on Fallen Empires. Both, frankly, far superior albums you could be listening to instead of Snow Patrol’s latest.
He’s also revealed R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe gave him advice to tackle a severe bout of songwriter’s block. Stipe advised Lightbody to “write out all the shit in your brain”. Maybe he should have reined a bit of the shit back in.
Fallen Empires is a bit all over the place jarring against their slickly successful Eyes Open and Final Straw albums. Its 13 tracks plus a tacked-on prelude (radical!) could definitely have been pared back by two songs or three.
Far too often, repetition is used like a blunt instrument to try to push songs that simply aren’t good enough to match former glories. Choirs are also wheeled out to lend some portentous weight to proceedings on several occasions. Lyrically, it’s all about the big themes. Love, death, drink and all that. And mid-album ballad Lifening contains Snow Patrol’s most depressingly populist lyric to date, ‘This is all I ever wanted from life – Ireland in the World Cup; either north or south’. Achtung Bono.
Snow Patrol haven’t yet emerged from the malaise of trying to reinvigorate their shtick on 2008’s underperforming – by their commercial standards – A Hundred Million Suns and this album is unlikely to change their declining fortunes. Fallen empires, indeed.
This album shows some – mostly unsuccessful – attempts to broaden Snow Patrol’s horizons but it’s not the reinvention promised by its alleged influences. Either go all-out to change direction or stick to the formula. This is a half-way house doomed never to wholly satisfy anyone.
Perhaps Snow Patrol should stop chasing critical credibility and go back to Chasing Cars.