The world has woken up to the Scottish music scene once again. Yes there is more to it than Travis and Wet Wet Wet and no-one could be demonstrating that more than the fabulous Franz Ferdinand, Belle and Sebastian (with their Trevor Horn makeover), and their former labelmates Snow Patrol, who have taken a leaf out of B & S’s book by moving in a more commercial direction.
Snow Patrol’s third album Final Straw is their first on new label Polydor. The most telling sign that the band is now with a bigger label is the clear way they are being marketed. Their recent single Run, an angst-ridden guitar ballad, has received a massive amount of airplay. Its accompanying video, which is not unlike the one that helped Coldplay‘s Yellow reach dizzy heights, demonstrates which way Snow Patrol are being pushed. “The Next Coldplay” tag is certainly one that the music press have been quick to pick up on although, ironically, Snow Patrol were around long before anyone had even heard of Chris Martin.
Still, if Coldplay comparisons are what it takes to thrust Snow Patrol into the public’s consciousness then it’s not necessarily a bad thing as their music deserves to be heard. The music of Snow Patrol is not going to change the world but, as Final Straw demonstrates, it’s a sound that is more than capable of flying the flag for the institution that is the British Guitar Band.
Although there are plenty of Coldplay moments on Final Straw, in general there are stronger echoes of bands like Teenage Fanclub (also Scottish) and Pavement. Second track Wow displays a more alternative edge with its short sharp rhythm and monotone vocal. In fact it is a definite stand-out track and has a style more suited to American indie rock. It’s when Snow Patrol are adopting this sound that they seem to be in their element. Wow moves into Gleaming Auction, which picks up where its predecessor left off, using a similar vocal tone and following the same pattern of quiet verses that build up to a heavier, louder chorus.
The tracks effortlessly glide into each other, showing that this is a well thought-out, competently produced album. But despite the subtle variety offered on Final Straw, many will buy this for the single Run, which is the ultimate highlight on the album. It is not surprising that this is the song to launch Snow Patrol because it is an emotionally-loaded anthemic gem. From the tortured vocal performance and painful lyrics to the haunting melody and crescendo chorus, this is the Wonderwall and Yellow of pub jukeboxes for the next few years.
Lyrically Snow Patrol are interesting yet simple.They can do deep and despairing but can also lighten things up and show a hint of humour when required. Spitting Games is an amusing twist on unrequited love with lines like: “I find it easier to sit and stare / Than push my limbs out towards you right there”. We’ve all been there and that’s why Snow Patrol have the potential to become massive. Their words feel autobiographical and, like other popular bands of recent years, they have an ability to resonate equally well with the nerdy schoolboy sitting alone in his bedroom as they do with a group of twenty-somethings getting stoned together.
Final Straw may not be groundbreaking but it is a strong album that will prove that there is more to Snow Patrol than a one-off hit and show that they are not just another Coldplay clone. Their gentle melodies and heartfelt lyrics also hint that Snow Patrol are just a couple of singles away from achieving mass popularity and after years of hard work in the background they deserve it.