Friday, 17 October 2008

In the Chilly World of Snow Patrol...

In the chilly world of Snow Patrol, ‘the fun just never stops,’ apparently…

By Natalie Rosen

Listen everyone – I have some vaguely exciting news for you! Snow Patrol are back, and they sound the same as ever. Let’s celebrate with a bottle of ice-cold water, and possibly a bag of broken biscuits. I’m sure the band are doing that right now, as they unleash their mild new single, ‘Take Back The City,’ on the suspecting public.

Is anyone excited about the return of Snow Patrol, apart from Snow Patrol, that is? Just as well no one was bursting with anticipation, because as we all know, the higher your expectations of something, the more disappointed you’ll be. Remember the total solar eclipse of 1999? Free viewing-shades in cereal boxes, a mass migration to Cornwall, the end of the world predicted – and all we got was 100% cloud cover. Of course, at the back of our minds, we knew it wouldn’t be too spectacular, but we did hope it wouldn’t be rubbish.

Quite ironic then, that Snow Patrol’s forthcoming album promises, by its title at least, to be an even more brilliant celestial phenomenon than an eclipse – A Hundred Million Suns. Which probably describes the galaxy, and there are not many marvels of physics more wonderful than a galaxy, full of cute twinkly paper stars. That’s right – paper stars. Look at the album cover for proof, because what do scientists know about outer space, anyway? However, these five Northern Irish/Scottish indie boys deserve your sympathy: ‘Chasing Cars’ was voted Best Song of All Time by Virgin Radio listeners (you’d think that music was only invented in 2006), so for ‘Take Back The City’ to match the success of that sweetly yearning, radio-hogging ballad will be a challenge of Everest – or maybe Ben Nevis – proportions.

‘Take Back The City’ sounds like an extra extra bonus track you might have found on Snow Patrol’s previous album Eyes Open. This is not a bad thing; their earnestly emotional tunes rightly sold millions. You know the formula now – soft, ear-pleasing vocals, crunchy little guitar bits here and there, melancholy yet hopeful lyrics, and ponderous, plodding rhythms. And always a faint chill, as if contemplating a vast expanse of ice. In these times of global warming, we’re lucky to get a decent frost; but Snow Patrol create a sound reminiscent of Narnia, where it’s always winter but never Christmas…

‘You can sing till you drop, ‘cos the fun just never stops,’ vocalist Gary Lightbody breathes, while his bandmates do their best to rock out. The subject of his cheery mood is the collection of skyscrapers, half-price sales, trendy young people and police incidents that we call ‘the city.’ Indeed, the tone is quite heady and uplifting, recreating the buzz of a night-time urban adventure. One of those rare times when you’re drunk on life instead of cheap beer. Still, this feeling is diluted by the song’s main fault – melodic repetition. The same notes are played and the same lines sung over and over, and you’ll probably fall asleep halfway through. Even the accompanying video, in which sociable citizens move at double-speed, will not keep you awake. But then, Snow Patrol aren’t famous for being fascinating.

I defy anyone, when listening to this track, not to wish for something – anything – unexpected in it, just for a bit of aural interest. Nothing too radical; perhaps a random Blur-esque ‘woo-hoo!’ or a naff robotic voice entreating you to ‘boogie on the dancefloor,’ or a few hip-hop exclamations of ‘yo, c’mon, this is how we do it, shorty’. Something memorable is needed. At least ‘Chasing Cars’ lodges in your brain because of the lethargic wail, ‘If I lay here, if I just laaay here…’ But ‘Take Back The City,’ even after a few listens, merges with their back catalogue into a Snow Patrol soup. Snow Patrol-flavoured soup would, I imagine, have no flavour at all. One of those boring, watery soups lacking tasty lumps of vegetables. If you prefer tasteless soup, that’s fine, but it will pass through your bowels leaving no nutrients. Similarly, this particular song is not greatly enjoyable, nor will it damage your health (I hope).

‘Take Back the City’ is serviceable enough to accompany your most mundane activities, such as driving to work, or organising your stamp collection. It is impossible to hate, like Snow Patrol themselves. As for ‘taking back the city tonight,’ it doesn’t quite cut the mustard, lyrically or melodically. There are much better singles, such as the fresh, upbeat ‘You’re All I Have’ or the youthful, energetic ‘Spitting Games,’ or the haunting duet with Martha Wainwright, ‘Set the Fire to the Third Bar’ (incidentally, a live version of this features as a b-side to the new single). I think it’s time Snow Patrol had some new ideas, and then we’ll have something to be genuinely excited about.

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