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Snow Patrol - Fallen Empires

posted 1 Dec 2011, 18:10 by olnf Admin   [ updated 11 Feb 2012, 03:19 ]
Author: Sudeep Jaiswal

Snow Patrol
‘Fallen Empires’ (2011)

‘Fallen Empires’ is Snow Patrol’s sixth studio album, released three years after ‘A Hundred Million Suns’. Since finding commercial success with ‘Final Straw’ (2003), the band has been ambitious and has readily tried to expand their musical horizons, with mixed critical success. On ‘Fallen Empires’, they incorporate dance/techno elements on some songs, the earliest hints of which can be heard on ‘Just Say Yes’ from ‘Up to Now’ (2009). A fitting name for a compilation album that included tracks from the band’s first album to the latest, it was also suggestive that the band was about to try something radically different.

Tracks:

1. ‘I’ll Never Let Go’ (4:44): A solid album opener, it appears to be about lovers running away from home and the difficulties afterward. Singer-songwriter Lissie provides background vocals, and they’re reminiscent of Merry Clayton on ‘Gimme Shelter’ by The Rolling Stones.

2. ‘Called Out in the Dark’ (4:01): The first single is easily the most ‘poppy’ song on the album. But that’s not necessarily bad. I have no idea what the song is about but it sounds great and has an eye catching video, which is basically all a single is supposed to be.

3. ‘The Weight of Love’ (4:17): A gorgeous sounding song. It appears to continue the theme of ‘I’ll Never Let Go’. The lovers are looking forward to their new life and struggling to forget their past.

4. ‘This Isn’t Everything You Are’ (4:58): A very good song; the guy has left the girl and she spent the night drinking and regretting her decisions. She needs to stay calm and not hold herself together, and everything will get better with time. Taken as the second single from the album, the band shot the video in a bar.

5. ‘The Garden Rules’ (4:29): It appears the guy is now reminiscing about his childhood with the girl. We come to know that he has loved her since they were kids, and he still does. This implies that he had a reason(s) to leave her, but this isn’t explained anywhere on the album. The wonderful Lisa Hannigan provides background vocals on this absolutely pretty song.

6. ‘Fallen Empires’ (5:20): Superb title song, fast-paced, dark and full of grandeur. Possibly the most experimental, Radiohead-esque song of the album, very un-Snow Patrol-like. Lissie provides background vocals. As the title suggests, it’s about everything going to hell.

7. ‘Berlin’ (2:05): This sweet instrumental piece serves as the interlude. The only lyrics it has are ‘ah ahs’, repeated for almost its entirety. It features a xylophone at the end, which reminds me of ‘How to be Dead’ from ‘Final Straw’. My guess is that this originated during the ‘A Hundred Million Suns’ sessions in Hansa Studios in Berlin, or was inspired from the time spent there.

8. ‘Life-ning’ (3:53): A simple song about desiring simple things from life. Has lyrics about the singer (Gary Lightbody) wanting to see Ireland (both of them) in the World Cup and listening to Teenage Fanclub on the jukebox, a band of whom Lightbody is a fan of. Nice shout out. However, to me, it’s not a worthy enough song to end up on the album.

9. ‘New York’ (4:01): An absolutely gorgeous song with beautiful lyrics. It appears to continue the theme from earlier. The guy is longing for his girl who is in New York, and realizes that he loves her. Since the band spent time in America during the recording of the album, the song may have been inspired by New York City itself.

10. ‘In the End’ (4:00): The song is about the guy’s meeting with the girl at another point in the future. He accepts the situation is a result of his actions and unsuccessfully tries to convince her that all that matters ‘in the end’ is love.

11. ‘Those Distant Bells’ (3:17): A short and dark song about impending death. It appears the guy has grown old alone in the home he and his girl once shared. Lissie again provides background vocals on this song.

12. ‘The Symphony’ (6:07): I instantly liked it and it’s one of my favorite songs from the album. Lyrically, it definitely seems to be about the guy now being dead and traveling, maybe to heaven or maybe hell? It’s also the longest song on Snow Patrol’s longest album yet.

13. ‘The President’ (4:35): A slow ballad, it’s about regret and shame. Continuing the central theme of the album, the guy is apparently in heaven. The girl is now there as well, waiting for him to return to him, but she isn’t completely over what happened between them before.  But the guy feels ashamed to show himself and decides to go away. The last minute contains a recording of people talking, which is maybe suggestive of the girl’s perspective, sitting silently, waiting, and people around her involved in their own lives.

14. ‘Broken Bottles Form a Star (Prelude)’ (1:30): This short instrumental piece closes the album. It’s supposed to be the prelude for the band’s seventh album, on which it’s supposed to be the first track. Gary Lightbody has said the next album has been finished already. Although, I doubt we will see it until the band finishes touring for ‘Fallen Empires’.

The Snow Patrol men are huge fans of U2, and I have found them reminiscent of U2, at least since after Snow Patrol was invited to tour with them in 2005. Since then, they have opened a music academy, a music publishing company for upcoming artists and made a sixteen minute epic. It is one thing to try something new, and something entirely different to succeed at it. U2 went the dance/techno route with the massively successful ‘Achtung Baby’ (1991), continued with ‘Zooropa’ (1993) and the disastrous ‘Pop’ (1997), before making a proper rock album in 2001. Since the album isn’t dance/techno-heavy, it appears that Snow Patrol is merely testing the waters, and playing it a bit safe. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Nearly touching the hour mark, ‘Fallen Empires’ will seem quite long if you aren’t a fan of the band. It isn’t the kind of album you can fall in love with on the first listen, but it gets steadily better with every listen.

9/10

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