Album Cover
Snow Patrol
Final Straw
March 30, 2004


Once in a while I come across a band that consistently surprises me with their musical genius and innovation. A song is good, I'm digging it, and then - all of a sudden - they do something that blows my mind, and I have no choice but to exercise my fingers and reach out for the repeat button. What was it? A key change? Beautiful integration of instruments and vocals? Catchy beat leading to catchier beat? As my heart swells and bursts into tiny pieces with increasing adoration I gain for the new love of my life, I save analysis for another day.

Snow Patrol isn't that kind of band.

With a new guitarist and record label, Snow Patrol advertises their latest album, Final Straw, as "one of the best British records you'll hear this year." Oooh! Semi-cute boys with accents?! They say 'mum' instead of 'mom'! My eyes light up. Gotta give them a chance. Ahhh, how young and naïve I was back then, all those years [4 weeks] ago. In order to hype up the album's release in the United States, marketing allowed a sneak preview of a few tracks offa Final Straw. I had my hopes up with these three tracks, and I'll even admit that I was excited when I saw the CD's cover grace the local Best Buy (even more excited with the "Best Buy" price of $9.99).

Unfortunately, Final Straw is a highly predictable album that lacks originality and motivation for this reviewer to finish the album in one sitting - I had to take a couple of breaks before taking a deep breath and plunging back into this stagnant mediocrity. Its songs blend together in a meaningless, trivial way, and any attempt to create a unique sound to their music leaves them as a wannabe Better Than Ezra, rather than their desire to be the next Radiohead.

Gary Lightbody, the lyricist and frontman for the group, claims that their songs delve into oceans of heartbreak, and are also influenced by the war in Iraq. Deep, eh? It was hard for me to imagine Lightbody mentioning this with a straight face while the opening track, "How to Be Dead" played. It was so surprisingly disappointing that I shed a tear as I saw the album's potential run like hell from my optimistic grasp. Guitars strum an instantly forgettable melody, complete with equally non-satisfying lite drumming and whiny synth whistles while Lightbody sings "So sweetheart, tell me what's up/I won't stop/No way," lyrics which permeate the entire song to the point of nausea.

Things improve slightly from here on out. Impossible not to, after such a horrible opener. But, seriously, here are some musical highlights that are entertaining for a few listens.

"Wow" and "Spitting Games" are solid Britpop tracks, so don't be alarmed if they cause you to nod your head along with the catchy beat. Savor this moment, there aren't many of 'em. In fact, Lightbody's voice has this pleasant reverb in "Wow" that made me temporarily forget how many of these tracks are filler. "Gleaming Auction" is kept sweet and short and MAY CAUSE FOOT-TAPPING. Once again, completely normal, no need to worry.

"Run" will, like, totally get air time during prom. Its lyrics are sweet without being saccharine. Almost. Things are pleasant enough while Lightbody explains "You've been the only thing that's right/In all I've done/And I can barely look at you," yet the handbasket merrily runs to hell when Lightbody finds that looking into his lover's eyes "Makes it so hard not to cry/And as we say our long goodbye/I nearly do." Dear Lord, have you heard of subtlety? Regardless, the musical back-up is decent with a quiet strings arrangement, and the vocals and melody eventually shine through during the chorus to create a decent hook and track.

I'm sorry to break the news, but it's a desolate wasteland after "Run". "Tiny Little Fractures" aims to please, but the back-up vocals evoke enough cringing that it's impossible to ignore the urge to skip this little ditty. I think "Somewhere a Clock Is Ticking," deals with the war, simply because the lyrics contain that particular word, but the song also repeats "I could do most anything to you..." throughout the song, which makes me wonder what point Snow Patrol's trying to make. The instruments combined with an unexpected strings addition build up around each other nicely, but the vocals keep getting in the way.

Final Straw is cotton-candy manufactured music. The experience is fleetingly sweet, but soon all that's left is a paper stick and an empty taste in your mouth. Trust me, you'll be better off visiting their website and listening to their songs for free while you still can. You won't be missing out on anything. But hey, at least Gary annunciates his words nicely

Jessica Mattila

Track List

  1. How to Be Dead
  2. Wow
  3. Gleaming Auction
  4. Whatever's Left
  5. Spitting Games
  6. Chocolate
  7. Run
  8. Grazed Knees
  9. Ways & Means
  10. Tiny Little Fractures
  11. Somewhere a Clock Is Ticking
  12. Same