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Snow Patrol - Final Straw Print E-mail
Tuesday, 30 March 2004

Snow Patrol

Final Straw
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: A&M Records
release year: 2004
performance: 8
sound 8
reviewed by: Paul Lingas

Image Final Straw starts off with “How to be Dead,” a ballad that really sets both the general tempo and style, even though not very many of the other songs are ballads. The title of the track tells you that we’re dealing with a bit of angst and bitterness while just a tad of hope flutters in and out. The album as a whole is characterized by great lyrics that meld perfectly with the upbeat tempos to question the ramifications of lyrics versus melody. These are quintessentially British music characteristics and they are all here on the third album from Snow Patrol, though Final Straw is their first record in the current manifestation as a quartet of vocals and guitar by Gary Lightbody, guitar by Nathan Connolly, bass and keyboards by Mark McClelland and drums by Jonny Quinn. Hailing from Scotland, the original trio met at the University of Dundee and now the foursome live in Glasgow. The thing is, they’re originally Irish. So just what do they consider their starting point to be? As Quinn remarks, “We’re an Irish band living in Scotland.” Enough said. Let’s move on.

“Wow” unleashes the hard-pedal garage rock that is common on the airwaves and adds U.K. attitude. The use of distorted guitars not only makes an imprint but also brings up a recurring theme. “Gleaming Auction” is tough and has some really fun distortion and other effects in the choruses. It’s really difficult to place the genre, save to say that it’s rock. Lightbody’s vocals are both crushing and sanguine, able to relate many different feelings and emotions while actually carrying a tune with a voice that sounds at least somewhat trained in the rapidly diminishing art of singing.

“Spitting Games” is a fun and upbeat anthem of frustrated love with a bit more of a mainstream feel due to some great hooks, riffs and a fine chorus. This is a really good song in terms of tempo and listenability. There is an ‘80s feel to it that just absolutely grabs you and won’t let go. “Chocolate” is a painful reminder of when the end is the end. A driving beat mixes in with some catchy guitar and plaintive background bells to create a painful mix of hopeful melancholy and general annoyance with life. “Run” is a deeply brooding ballad that showcases Lightbody’s effective vocals: they contain the feeling and depth that is required and sought by many, but without any of the annoying stridency or overly manipulative efforts that are the hallmarks of many other frontmen. “Grazed Knees,” “Tiny Little Fractures” and “Somewhere a Clock is Ticking” further indicate the pissed-off melancholy that permeates the album.

While there aren’t really any rough edges per se, there are some gaps here and there, bits that will become filled in and refined as the group matures in its current format. Kudos go out to Snow Patrol and their producer for the fact that none of the tracks carry on too long. Each one gets to the point, has its wonderful moments and then ends. That’s the way to keep people wanting more. If you want an example of overproduced songs that are too long, listen to Be Here Now by Oasis, but no such third album blues for Snow Patrol. Bundle up and expect good things to come.

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