Snow Patrol - Eyes Open

Eyes Open is Irish band Snow Patrol's eagerly anticipated follow-up to 2004's remarkable hit Final Straw. It also marks the band's fourth studio LP.


As on Final Straw, Garret 'Jacknife' Lee was once again enlisted as producer. In order to allow Eyes Open time to develop, Lee and the band set out to a remote house on a cliff on the Irish Coast. This location, known as the Roundhouse, is a place Kate Bush has also escaped to when writing. The band utilised this remote location not only for rehearsal and recording but as an opportunity to cement and strengthen internal relationships and recent line-up changes. Bassist Mark McClelland was a casualty of the success of Final Straw, being replaced by Paul Wilson earlier in 2005. Another addition to the band was long-time live keyboard player Tom Simpson who officially joined in April 2005.


Snow Patrol are often compared to Coldplay, and whilst the comparisons are justified (both being pundits of romantic stadium-rock) Eyes Open and Coldplay's X&Y couldn't be more different animals. On Eyes Open, vocalist and chief songwriter Gary Lightbody reaches his darkest moments yet as a result of the turmoil caused by two and a half years of solid touring.


This tough touring schedule and the rigors of life on the road has made an impact on Gary Lightbody's lyrics, there are plenty of references to aching joints and tired bones scattered across the record. His vocals are forcefully delivered and full of emotion but there is a definite tiredness there. This world-weary tone has a physical side also, Lightbody had nodules removed from his vocal cords this year.


The quality of Snow Patrol's writing has continued to develop and what Eyes Open has over Final Straw is accessibility and definite commercial appeal. Through all eleven tracks the band deliver powerful, touching and emotive material. Highlights include Chasing Cars, It's Beginning to Get to Me and Set the Fire to the Third Bar (a duet written especially for, and sung with Martha Wainwright).


This newfound slickness does come at a price, albeit a small one. Eyes Open is a fabulous record but there's a touch missing of whatever made Snow Patrol what they are missing from this record. Eyes Open does trade off some of Final Straw's intrigue for a more commercial and formulaic set of songs. In fact, should future Snow Patrol releases continue on this path we may indeed see them skidding dangerously close to X&Y's blandness. That's in the future though, for the time being just rejoice in Eyes Open for everything it is.

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