A Hundred Million Suns

Snow Patrol

Polydor/A&M, 2008


REVIEW BY: Jono Russell


TV exposure can be priceless: just ask Team Obama as they prepare to shell out for 30-minute campaign ads ahead of the US election. It took far less screen time than that for Scottish alternative rock band Snow Patrol to go from being a moderately successful outfit to a household name worldwide. What prompted this jump to superstardom and the declarations that this five-piece may, for better or worse, be The New Coldplay? The inclusion of “Chasing Cars,” far from Snow Patrol's best track, in a painfully melodramatic end to a season of NBC's Grey's Anatomy. Suddenly the band was attracting radio airplay wherever Grey's is popular -- which, astoundingly, is almost everywhere -- and the album Eyes Open went on to sell 4.7 million copies worldwide.

While A Hundred Million Suns may technically be the fifth Snow Patrol album, in the eyes of most it's a sophomore effort. Eyes Open was unashamedly accessible and quite possibly a premeditated attempt to capture a mainstream audience. Thus the band reaches a fork in the road: do they slide further down the path toward cookie-cutter stadium anthem pop, or return to their indie-alternative roots of yesteryear? Suns is an album from a band carving a third path, straight down the middle. They have their cake and, dammit, they're going to eat it too.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

2008 has already brought us Coldplay's Viva La Vida, so those concerned about stadium anthem overload can breathe easy. Aside from the fact the opening 30 seconds of the album sounds eerily familiar to Viva La Vida opener “Life In Technicolor,” this album is not filled with “Chasing Cars” clones, destined for an arena near you. Instead it's more of the earnest yet sincere songwriting that made Final Straw so likable in the first place.

As expected, love is a recurring theme throughout Suns. Whether it be a woman as in the undeniably pretty “Crack The Shutters” (“’Cause the daylight seems to want you / Just as much as I want you"), or the city described in the first single “Take Back The City” (“I love this city tonight / I love this city always”), frontman Gary Lightbody is as effusive as ever, and no more so than on album highlight “The Planets Bend Between Us,”  a low key ballad centered around a declaration that “it's all for you.”

That's not to say this album is completely devoid of experimentation. Producer Jacknife Lee's influence is obvious on “The Golden Floor,” as the sort of raspy beats more at home on a Bloc Party record (Lee produced Bloc Party’s Intimacy) are introduced on top of acoustic fingerpicking. “I'm not afraid of anything, even time,” sings a subdued and content Lightbody, after admitting he's just a “peasant in your princess arms.” There's a believable air of humility in Lightbody's love songs that isn't always present in the work of a certain, oft-compared, British band (see paragraph three for a hint).

The band name-dropped Sufjan Stevens in Eyes Open and, while there's none of that this time around, there are some moments of indulgence. “Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands,” an upbeat rocker, borrows from the Stevens' tradition of long song titles. Then there's album closer “The Lightning Strike,” a three-part epic that clocks in at over 16 minutes and details the experience of enduring a storm. Parts one and two are appropriately dark, both lyrically and sonically, before the more optimistic daybreak arrives complete with inevitable relief and reflection. "When you held on to me like I was your little life raft / Please know you were mine as well,” sings Lightbody.

All in all, being the chosen accompaniment to the distinctly unlikeable Meredith Grey's love life has not changed Snow Patrol one bit -- well, aside from the fact A Hundred Million Suns will feature heavily in album charts worldwide. Suns finds Lightbody and co. as affable as ever and, as such, is a step forward.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2008 Jono Russell and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Polydor/A&M, and is used for informational purposes only.