Snow Patrol – Fallen Empires (Fiction)

Snow Patrol is one of those earnest, anthemic bands that seem to have a polarizing effect on music fans. Like U2 or Coldplay, you either become hopelessly enamoured by them, or find them totally repulsive, or at least ridiculous. But there is a middle ground, and that’s where Snow Patrol find themselves on this, their sixth studio album.

The band is essentially a vehicle for lead singer Gary Lightbody and his heart-on-the-sleeve songs. Second-in-command seems to be long-time producer Jacknife Lee who not only produces, but plays various guitar and keyboard parts on almost every track and is responsible for the band’s sonic design. The remaining four band members hang around largely to reproduce the songs in a live setting. In fact, the “Friends Choir” and full orchestra that show up on half of the album’s 14 tracks have a bigger presence than most of the bandmembers. But that is to be expected, as these are, for the most part, big, emotive, stadium-filling songs. Also chiming in on backing vocals are American folkie Lissie and Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance.

The album opens, not with grandiose guitar chords, but with oscillating electronic beats. The pounding drums eventually kick in as do the guitars. The lyrics on I’ll Never Let Go are vaguely Dylan-esque and Lissie and the choir round things out with a gospel vibe.

The next tune, Called Out In The Dark, seems to be written for the stadium as Lightbody sings breathlessly, ‘show me the arms aloft’ and ‘this is your life, this is your time’.

Much of the first half of the album rolls along in the same fashion…vaguely emotive songs built for bigger things. It’s after the brief instrumental, Berlin, that Lightbody’s songs start to connect on a more personal level.

Lifening is a life-affirming tearjerker, but it hits a certain spot in the heart, especially when Lightbody reveals, ‘this is all I ever wanted from life…Ireland in the World Cup, either North or South’. New York follows with another heart-rending tale, this one about rekindling a lost relationship and In The End wraps up the trifecta with a thoughtful lyric about truth and lies. This is the stuff fans crave and Snow Patrol serve it up just the way they like it here. The band has always been about making an emotional connection with the listener and they do just that with these three songs.

The album would be much better if they stopped at track 11, but they continue on for three more, inferior, songs, including the six-minute opus The Symphony. In this case, less would have been more. But then, that’s always the case with bands as eager to please as Snow Patrol…they don’t know when to stop.

Marty Duda

Click here to listen to Lifening from Fallen Empires