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Snow Patrol get stuck in a drift

Non, je ne regrette rien? No. Not really.

I wish I could be that definitive. Unfortunately, I have doubts.

It's not regret for that night on Sauchiehall Street . . . or even the incident involving the police car, the Linfield supporters and the Union Jack thong. No. What bothers me is that 10 years ago I advised friends to check out the relatively new talent that was Snow Patrol.

Sure, Gary Lightbody is a good egg, a chap who encourages local talent and hasn't let success go to his head. But, six albums on, I'm wondering if I should have kept schtum.

No doubt Lightbody's talent for middlebrow melancholia would have found this impressive level of popularity regardless. After an initial flourish, Keane attempted to abandon the zeitgeist but those Coldplay completists who crave a surfeit of poignancy have Snow Patrol for comfort.

Producer Jacknife Lee can't be blamed for their belated assimilation of U2's Achtung Baby stadium rock-dancefloor interface. But, more sturm und drang than rattle and hum, the latest 14-track offering comes unstuck on a set of adolescent lyrical motifs that would embarrass Hallmark.

This Isn't Everything You Are offers a tear-soaked shoulder to some misfortunate who's grieving for a friend who's brown bread. At least I think he's deceased. He may just have "slipped away last night" to Tullamore, which bad and all as that may be, isn't quite the same as being a stiff.

Perhaps Gary should just have sent a bereavement card and spared us the overblown histrionics.

In a laudable attempt to give listeners value for money, Snow Patrol took their eye off quality control. This album veers dramatically between songs that are over-worked and tracks that resemble rough sketch demos. It's an uncomfortable listening experience.



thumping

The mysteriously titled Berlin, cutsey acoustic arpeggios and thumping beat, sounds more like a discarded television commercial than something a major band might expect fans to pay money for. Broken Bottles Form A Star is another sonic doodle that puts ambition before effort.

However, fans will embrace the single Called Out In The Dark as vintage Lightbody, where the voice of concern is set over a skippy beat allowing the pop chorus to sweep all before it in readiness for the next stadium gig. "Show me the arms aloft . . . This is your life. This is your time . . ."

For every The Garden Rules ("there's the river, there's the house, there's the church . . ."), a poignant and lightweight excursion through childhood memory, there's the counterbalancing thud of something like the The Symphony, the nearest thing you'll hear to Enid Blyton in rock music: "A secret door, a door undiscovered. You knock so gently in case you're heard . . ."

Overall, it seems Snow Patrol are anxious to change but remain unsure how to go about it. Gary's experiments with supergroup Tired Pony haven't solved the riddle.

For now, they're happy to stick to the middle of the road. HHHII


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