The Snow Patrol Chronicles [Part One]

Posted on July 20, 2010

By Ruchika Joshi:

This week I discovered, or rather re-discovered, one of my now all time favorite bands, Snow Patrol. For the uninitiated, Snow Patrol is a Northern Irish alternative rock band. Formed at the Scottish University of Dundee in 1994, the band now works from Glasgow. Its current members include Gary Lightbody (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Jonny Quinn (drums, percussion), Tom Simpson (keyboards, samples), Nathan Connolly (lead guitar, backing vocals), and Paul Wilson (bass guitar, backing vocals).

You must have heard their hit single ‘Chasing Cars’ from the second studio album ‘Eyes open’ playing and replaying on the radio. Do you remember the morbid sounding Heroes soundtrack? Yes, that would be ‘Somewhere a Clock is ticking’ from their major label debut ‘Final Straw’.

The band’s first three records were commercially unsuccessful and released by independent labels. Struggling on the UK music scene, which at that point of time had shifted its attention to American bands, Snow Patrol had to overcome some serious obstacles to be the successful band that they are today. By July 2001, the band was cash strapped with record deal. It was during this time the band wrote,“Run” (which had been around since 2000) in a room on an acoustic guitar, which later became the band’s breakthrough single.

The band’s “low point” came when they played a concert to 18 people at a popular strip club in High Wycombe. The show took place in a shoddy VIP area, and the management had to unscrew poles used by pole dancers in order to make space for the band to play.

Quinn calls the show “horrendous”. By 2002—2003, the band had started to lose faith, and was considering getting jobs to raise money to finance the album themselves. However, just about then, almost as if by a stroke of good luck and a mighty one at that, Snow Patrol was signed on by the major record company Polydor Records and hence unfurled some beautiful music spanning across the genres of Alternative Rock, Britpop and Indy Rock.

‘Final Straw’ finally came on the floors on 4 August 2003, under Black Lion, a subsidiary of Polydor Records. Its music was along the same lines as the band’s first two albums, and there were no attempts to change the sound to something more radio-friendly. The album, along with “Run” (which debuted at #5 in the UK Singles Chart), gave the band their first taste of mainstream success. The record peaked at #3 in the UK Albums Chart.

“It was called ‘Final Straw’ because in some ways it was the final throw of the dice. The title was also taking the piss out of people who thought we were really over. A lot of them did not give us much of a chance. When we wanted to release the third album, we came up against many obstacles. Most record companies thought we were failures”, said Gary Lightbody, on the naming of the band’s third album.

‘Run’ is an amazingly brilliant song, in that it reflects where the band comes from and gives a glimpse of what to expect from them. It brings out the anguish and the hardships faced, and the final attempt to run away from it all. Delivering a sense of comfort in an uncanny and difficult circumstance, it even manages to instill some consolation with its brutal honesty.

Another one of my favorite singles from this album is ‘Chocolate’. The song has an engaging pace that seems to build up to something. However, as you wait for that something to be unraveled, the song is surprisingly over, almost as if the build up was their main intention, and what a build up at that! Put together with a hint of reminiscence and a tinge of love, regrets and the promises of making it work, the lyrics fit perfectly.

Even the music video lives up to the song. Filmed in New York, it shows scenes of panic at what is apparently ‘the end of the world’. At the center of the scene is an hourglass that is quickly running out. With the two linked, the song’s last line “I promise I’ll do anything you ask… this time” can be seen to be ironic. However, after the song ends lead singer, Gary Lightbody enters the shot, inverting the hourglass, effectively throwing everyone into a second panic. The video fades out to the song’s signature guitar riff repeating.

Another gripping song is ‘Somewhere a Clock is ticking’. This song blew me away! Dark and twisted in every sense, it dwells on the gripping music with barely-there lyrics. The part where the drums break the silence truly catches you by surprise. ‘A clock is ticking, but it’s hidden far away, safe and sound’, I really did not expect them to drop that beat at that interval and when they did, it was just so right. ‘How to be dead’ did not make quite as much of an impact as one would expect from a follow-up single. However, it makes for a happy listening experience, with a forgiving tone.

The other album tracks include, ‘Wow’, ‘Gleaming Auction’, ‘Whatever’s

Left’, ‘Spitting Games’, ‘Grazed Knees’, ‘Ways & Means’, ‘Tiny Little Fractures’ and ‘Same’.

The album deserves every bit of critical acclaim and commercial success that it has gained over the years. It gave Snow Patrol their place on the world music scene and with the consecutive albums, the band made sure to cement that place. These people know whom they are and will leave you with a distinct after-taste of their music, craving for more, craving for better.

So check out this album and do tell me what you think of it. Maybe, we can devour their following albums together, and believe me when I say; there is a lot to savor.

Happy Snow Patrol-ing!

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