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A Hundred Millions Sons

Irish Rockers Still Going For The Emotional Jugular On Impressive Fifth Album

Rating: 7 / 10

Peter Murphy, 22 Oct 2008

So, will Snow Patrol’s hard-won status as multi-million selling US stadia act make them play it safe, as they did with Eyes Open, or will they find hitherto unsuspected reserves of adventure and enterprise? Put crudely, will ,i<>A Hundred Million Suns – written on the shores of Lough Corrib, recorded partly in Grouse Lodge, partly in the fabled Hansa Ton and Hansa Platz studios in Berlin – be their experimental Euro record, or another selection of heartbreaker ballads, chunky rockers and superior filler?

Wrong question. The real poser is how much heartache Gary Lightbody is prepared to endure for the sake of his art. But who are we kidding: heartache happens anyway, regardless of whether or not you write a song about it. The opening ‘If There’s A Rocket Tie Me To It’ (“Two weeks later like a surplus reprieve/I found a hair the length of yours on my sleeve”) is quintessential SP: rumbling rhythms, rigidly strummed guitar, earnest vocal, suckerpunch melodies. Same goes for the thundering ‘Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands’, which freeze-frames the narrator browsing through the heart’s attic, opening a Pandora’s box of past snapshots.

Halfway between Rocky II and Love Story, Snow Patrol are still going for the heart’s jugular. They are that strange thing, Shelleyan romantics with one foot on the monitor, purveyors of Springsteen sized arena songs – ‘Crack The Shutters’, ‘Engines’ – that also make sense in the bedsit (‘The Golden Floor’ is a pretty reverie offset by a rhythm figure that sounds like a Warp-ed version of flamenco). Like it or not, Lightbody tunes like the panoramic ‘The Planets Bend Between Us’ will take you unawares on the radio and leave you blubbing in the supermarket aisle.

There are a few non-starters, mind. The band have always been better at slow motion fireworks than bland FM rock tunes like ‘Take Back The City’ or ‘Disaster Button’. But the final 16-minute three-part suite ‘The Lightning Strike’ is, it goes without saying, an ambitious piece of work, buffed up with brass and choir, migrating to Connemara to collect hints of ‘Baba O’Riley’ Arp synth, and then all back to Berlin for the curtain call.

Credit where it’s due: A Hundred Million Suns is an epic-minded endeavour that suggests Snow Patrol are finding new ways to break our hearts. Repeated plays will yield the true nature of the beast.

Rating: 7 / 10
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