Snow Patrol – [Album]

Thursday, 26 January 2012

My understanding of Snow Patrol is perhaps best summed up by a scene from the mediocre comedy Hall Pass. Owen Wilson, whose character is free to cheat on his wife, visits a coffee shop to hit on a sexy barista. He complements the music, which she explains is Snow Patrol. "Ah yeah, good soundtrack. Pretty good movie. Tell you one thing… Cuba Gooding definitely doesn't belong in the snow, does he?" A hipster coworker then mocks him for confusing the movie Snow Dogs with the band Snow Patrol. Yes, old people just don't get hip music, and it's sad when they try to pretend that they do.
Snow Patrol certainly fits the bill for background music at a hipster coffee shop: Brooding, melancholy songs about love and loss, with a band name that would confuse any middle age parent. While the joke in the movie falls flat, it at least captures how bands like Snow Patrol fit into society, and where you can expect to find them being appreciated.

As I listened to Snow Patrol's recent offering, Fallen Empires, there were times when I wondered if I was starting to enter the Owen Wilson phase of my life. With their sixth album, the band decided to take a different direction from their past work: rather than the straight forward Irish alt-rock that they've been known for, Fallen Empires has more of an electronic techno sound to many of its tracks. It's a change of pace but, at the same time, it's still clear that you've got a Snow Patrol album playing, and that's commendable.
Right from the first seconds of the starting track, "I'll Never Let Go," it's clear that things have changed. The song slowly builds, pushing my curiosity as well as my doubt. It's a fine (and mildly catchy) song, but will the entire album continue in this electronic alt-pop vein?
Fortunately the second track, "Called Out in the Dark," is a little more subtle with the change. It starts out sounding much more like the classic Snow Patrol sound that fans expect and slowly eases into the electronic sounds. While it still takes some adjustment, I have to admit: it works.
"The Symphony" and "New York" are among some of the stand-out tracks that really click with this newer sound, but tracks including "The Garden Rules" and "Those Distant Bells" are probably closer to what Snow Patrol fans are expecting of the band and offer more stripped down examples of the band's strengths. There's a nice mix of the old and the new on this album, which is really its biggest asset.
True musicians should be willing to try new things and push themselves, rather than crank out the same record-selling sounds from the past. Sometimes it works (the Chili Peppers sound vastly different from their early albums), sometimes it doesn't (anybody want to discuss Chris Cornell's Scream?), but you can't fault a band for trying something new. In Snow Patrol's case, they can classify Fallen Empires as a success. They managed to play around with their sound while at the same time staying true to it, producing an album that any fan of their work will likely appreciate. Even that dope in the coffee shop that's trying to act hip.



Fallen Empires
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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