Kat Smith discusses why Palo Santo, the long-awaited sophomore album from Years & Years, deserves five starsWritten by Kat Smith on 19th July 2018
Album Review: Snow Patrol — Wildness
Matt Taylor reviews Snow Patrol's most recent album, summing it up as frankly disappointing
Despite their reputation as a ‘Dad Band’, Northern Irish band Snow Patrol have a considerable amount of talent, and their seventh album has been a long time coming. We haven’t heard from them since 2011, when they released Fallen Empires to a lukewarm reception. Although it was decent, the standout track was easily the lead single ‘Called Out in the Dark’, and it never quite managed to reach the heights of their previous efforts. I wish I could say that the seven years in between Empires and their new LP Wildness had allowed the band time to craft a thoughtful, energetic rock album. Sadly, that isn’t the case. Although it wants to be so much more, Wildness is simply disappointing.
“Although it wants to be so much more, Wildness is simply disappointing
The best thing the album does is create a feeling of atmosphere – opening track ‘Life On Earth’ is almost hypnotic in its despair, down to use of electronic sounds and merging them with the traditional rock Snow Patrol are known for. It’s an interesting song that deals with the fact that life is miserable, and it guides us through this in a trance-like state as we’re carried along by it. Songs ‘A Dark Switch’, ‘What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get?’, ‘A Youth Written In Fire’ and ‘Soon’ all have a similar feel to them – but they all have the same issue: they never really go anywhere.
This is a problem that plagues the album as a whole – it just sort of happens. There’s little feeling when the songs end; although it’s a decent ride, we’re not left with any feelings of elation or sadness. It’s a case of “Well, that was good. What’s next?” Granted, there’s a good sense of atmosphere that almost feels inspired by bands like Wolf Alice, or the music of Twin Peaks: The Return, but when the tracks end there’s nothing there. It tries so hard, but things like use of snare drums over the bass in ‘A Dark Switch’ mean that it never gets going – there’s no grand explosion or finale, it simply ends. The songs are enjoyable to listen to, but they don’t offer anything more than that.
“It tries so hard, but it never gets going – there’s no grand explosion or finale, it simply ends
Having said that, three songs on the album are very much to its merit. ‘Empress’ and ‘Wild Horses’ inject a much-needed jolt of energy into the proceedings, giving us tracks reminiscent of songs like ‘Take Back the City’ and ‘You’re All I Have’. They may not be particularly memorable, but they’re easily the best songs on the album. Closing track ‘Life and Death’ carries an atmosphere that’s actually backed by some substance, and thankfully ends the album on a good note.
As with many new releases these days, there are two versions of this album; the standard, and the deluxe. Usually, deluxe versions aren’t worth bothering with, but with Wildness it absolutely is. The extra tracks are alternate, acoustic versions of five songs from the album, and, in a very strange twist of events, each one is better than the original. We get acoustics of ‘Life On Earth’, ‘Don’t Give In’, ‘Heal Me’, ‘What If …’, and ‘Soon’, and every single one of them achieves the emotion the original version doesn’t. They aren’t particularly songs that lend themselves to a consistent and satisfying rhythm, but removing the drum kit entirely is a perfect solution to this. They’re somehow given more energy by the acoustic guitar, and the use of trumpets is gorgeous. It also gives Lightbody the chance to show off his fantastic vocal ability, something he hasn’t been able to do all album. Each track feels more real and heartfelt than its original counterpart, and all are excellent – it’s just a shame the original releases couldn’t have done this.
“It’s quite slow and rather empty, with few memorable tracks
Overall, Wildness is largely a disappointment. It’s quite slow and rather empty, with few memorable tracks. The new sound the band tries to achieve gets lost amidst the sheer mediocrity, and the good songs present aren’t quite good enough to redeem it. It’s all the better, then, that the acoustic versions are a joy to the ears, and offer us a glimpse of what could have, or should have, been.