Eyes Open Label: A&M
It’s not clear what aspirations Gary Lightbody and Mark McClelland had when they started Snow Patrol in their dormitory in Scotland’s Dundee University. McClelland left the band after the release of Final Straw, so it seems his goals weren’t quite as grand as Lightbody’s. Straw went multi-platinum behind three hit singles – “Run,” “Spitting Games,” and “Chocolate” – and, on Eyes Open, Lightbody & Co. try to follow the same template that worked so well two years prior. While there are some very good moments, Eyes Open is missing something, and I can’t help but wonder if McClelland’s departure is the reason why.
“Hands Open” is the catchiest song on the album, and it’s best described as this year’s “Chocolate.” It’s an up-tempo number and it rocks about as hard as Snow Patrol can rock. The band’s sound has drawn numerous comparisons to Coldplay, and this track shows that they can leave such pigeonholing behind and going on to write a full-on rock song. Conversely, fans of “Run” will enjoy the next track, “Chasing Cars.” The only thing keeping this slowly building power ballad off the next Coldplay album is the absence of Chris Martin’s distinct vocals. Open’s version of “Spitting Games” is the disc’s first track, “You’re All I Have,” only the chorus isn’t quite as infectious. In fact, to varying degrees, all three songs aren’t quite as good as their counterparts on Straw.
But Eyes Open is a rather consistent album, and there’s some solid work after the first three tracks. The lyrics of “It’s Beginning to Get to Me” are a little over the top – “we need to feel breathless with love / and not collapse under its weight / I’m gasping for the air to fill / my lungs with everything I’ve lost” – but the music is lively, and that’s what’s most important. The best track on the second half of the disc is another building ballad, “Set the Fire to the Third Bar,” which features Martha Wainwright (Rufus’ sister) on guest vocals. Her voice sounds a little like Sia’s (check out “Breathe Me” or Zero 7’s “In the Waiting Line”) and she brings a certain intimacy to the melancholic track by singing a beat behind Lightbody through the entire song.
Those waiting for Snow Patrol to break from the norm shouldn’t hold their breath. The group has found a template that works and, with McLellan’s departure, the highs aren’t as high as on Straw, but the lows on Eyes Open aren’t that low, either. It’s a satisfying, consistent album from a band that’s slowly on the rise, but adjusting to a loss.