Album Reviews: Eyes Open by Snow PatrolWith his "supergroup" side-project Reindeer Section, Northern Irish songwriter Gary Lightbody dropped two of the finest indiepop albums of the last few years -- perfect collections of spare, sweet music. But his work with Snow Patrol is Big Alternative Rock, make no mistake. The band’s got what sounds like a trillion bucks worth of studio gadgetry at their disposal -- begging to be wired up for maximum melodrama -- and all the lyrical subtlety of a brick to the chest. The tunes on Eyes Open work best when Lightbody’s understated pop craft worms its way out of the bombast, but that doesn't happen very often.
Co-dependent opening track "You’re All I Have" starts promisingly, with a shimmering intro and -- right off the bat -- the kind of breezy singalong "woo-woo-woos" that make a pop fan’s heart melt. But by the time the chorus kicks in, it’s clear the song isn’t going to amount to more than Smallville soundtrack fodder. "It’s so clear now that you are all that I have," emotes Lightbody chestily from within a hurricane of processed guitar chordage. "I have no fear now you are all that I have." "Clear" and "fear." For reals.
But five songs later comes the affecting "You Could Be Happy," set to not much more than gentle plink-plunky keyboards. Murmurs Lightbody to a long-gone lover: "More than anything I want to see you girl/Take a glorious bite out of the whole world/You should be happy no matter what." That kind of big-hearted niceness isn’t much of a surprise anymore in the post-Coldplay rock world, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less touching.
In fact, like some of their UK brethren (Travis, Keane) there’s a bottom-line sincerity to Snow Patrol that makes even their most overblown tunes hard to fully dislike. Still, Eyes Open leaves you with the nagging feeling that with a few less pedals and a lot of editing, there coulda been greatness in there, too. - Rico Gagliano
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