Seven years after their 2011 effort Fallen Empires, Snow Patrol, responsible for such mid-noughties hits as ‘Chasing Cars’ and ‘Run’, return with an album both as deftly constructed as it is lyrically contemplative. Delayed repeatedly with various side projects and more than one bout of writers’ block for lead singer and songwriter Gary Lightbody, Wildness finds the band in fine form and ready to re-enter the alt-rock climate following a hiatus that looked at times, as if it would never end.
Ultimately, spending time writing for other names amongst the pop elite including Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, allowed Lightbody the distance needed to recalibrate the voice he wanted to bring to his own band, and that level of personal authorship shines across in many of Wildness’ songs.
“Lyrically the track introduces one of the album’s thematic constants: a sense of hope”
The record begins emphatically, with the striking ‘Life on Earth’. Its bold name is fortunately not wasted with its musical presence. After a crisp and cold acoustic opening, the song erupts with a sudden outpouring of bombastic emotion evoked by a twin pairing of blustering strings and cascading drums. Lyrically the track introduces one of the album’s thematic constants: a sense of hope. Lightbody grounds the listener, telling us the dark moments are simply a fact of existence, with the repeated titular refrain “it’s just life on earth”, whilst offering encouragement- “it doesn’t have to be the end of you or me”- in a fantastic opening track.
‘Don’t Give In’ boasts a similarly resilient message. Buzzing with the same vibrant energy of the album’s opener, its sophomore track, sees Snow Patrol perhaps tilting their hats to the musical development of the UK’s pop-rock scene during their hiatus, with its composition and vocal delivery not a million miles away from the offbeat boyishness of Bastille.
“Likewise, ‘Empress’ finds Snow Patrol at their best and happiest”
The pop focus continues with ‘Heal Me’, which also features a driving beat and sonic rhythms in an upbeat love song which has all the hallmarks of a readymade single. Likewise, ‘Empress’ finds Snow Patrol at their best and happiest, employing a killer chorus erupting over ringing guitar work. The album’s sound diversifies with the musically interesting ‘A Dark Switched’, with the track buoyed by scholarly strings and a guitar refrain with plenty of zest- in one of Wildness’ highlights.
‘What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get’ sees the band delivering a trademark piano ballad, serves as a welcome and effective breather amongst the album’s palpating energy. Lyrically it chronicles a moment of self-doubt creeping in amongst Wildness’ hitherto hopeful pertinence, as Lightbody anxiously ponders the next step in the arduous healing process of a broken heart.
“This introspection of memory is taken to an even more emotive place”
The nostalgic and synth-laden ‘A Youth Written in Fire’ follows, detailing the pain of recounting the vibrance and passion of a past relationship. This introspection of memory is taken to an even more emotive place with the expansive sounding ‘Soon’, which references the dementia of Lightbody’s father, offering sorrowful lyrics such as “there’s nothing to fear, because father, it’s always today”.
Wildness draws to its conclusion with the twin pairing of ‘Wild Horses’ and the uber contemplative ‘Life and Death’. Wild Horses is a dance-y affair combined with a cacophony of luscious guitars, emulating the sprightly, dynamic sound of the album as a whole. ‘Life and Death’ meanwhile is a beautiful, existential ending number, reminiscent of the peaceful poignancy of Eyes Open’s ‘The Finish Line’. It features a lavish and spacious production which gathers pace to an emotional finale, laden with pulsating drums and searching guitar riffs cascading far into the distance as the band’s search for clarity reaches its final notes.
Wildness works in its primitiveness- it’s raw, uncompromising and features a carefully crafted musical balance, with an even mix of alternative pop tunes, higher energy dance numbers, as well as the sort of atmospheric ballads that earned them worldwide recognition throughout the 2000s.
“As comeback records go, Wildness holds up as an impressive effort”
Does it touch the heights of their breakthrough album Final Straw or 2006’s hit-filled Eyes Open? Perhaps not- whilst each track serves a high standard of quality and musical intrigue, upon multiple listens they are slightly more forgettable than the hook-laden tracks of those earlier triumphs. Still, as comeback records go, Wildness holds up as an impressive effort and worthwhile addition to Snow Patrol’s discography after so long away.
Image Courtesy of Snow Patrol Official Facebook.