By JackWildness may be pushing it a little, but this is certainly Snow Patrol’s rawest album. Passionate, unfiltered and dispensing with the increasingly ornate sounds present on their latter-day discography. Some advances are lost in the process, but this is a welcome return.
Gary Lightbody’s indie survivors had found themselves exploring increasingly complex sounds and structures, and increasingly symphonic sounds on A Hundred Million Suns & Fallen Empires. Suns culminated in a three-part symphony, Empires closed with a self-professed prelude (…so an epilogue then?).
While there was no demonstrable dip in quality, Snow Patrol may have felt painted into a corner. How far can you take symphonica before it becomes clap-trap? Perhaps Snow Patrol were about to find out – though they could have always asked Coldplay.
It’s tempting to characterise Wildness as a response or retreat from this. ‘Back-to-basics’ may indeed be the PR tack come release day. However the truth is more complex and more satisfying.
Snow Patrol have not surrendered their love of spacey weirdness entirely, and in fact ‘Life on Earth’ can rank amongst their most entertaining and perplexing. “Shouldn’t need to be so fucking hard…it’s just life on earth” has a great punch to it, coming from Lightbody of all people, the erstwhile weeper’s champion.
Lightbody’s voice takes centre stage here. And while his vocal range and distinctive style has always been a pull, this is far and away the best vocals we’ve had from him. Exasperated cries, guttural crowing and impassioned breaks emerge from the pipes of Lightbody like never before. ‘What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get?’ – an ode to settling – would sink without a trace under the overblown MOR of Sam Smith or some similar balladeer du jour, but Lightbody inhabits the song like a ghost in walls of a childhood home.
Around him, his bandmates do more than merely fill in the cracks. Wildness showcases an expansive sound, with impressive musical muscularity evident on all accounts. Stoner rock riffs, tasteful sub-bass, synth flourishes and a blend of programmed and live drumming fill out around Lightbody’s booming tones.
Wildness is not wild, but it is a very fun ride, and sees front-man Gary Lightbody in the throes of a renaissance.