Snow Patrol, A Hundred Million Suns (Polydor, 2008)

A decade into their career, Snow Patrol have established themselves as one of the most popular bands to emerge from Scotland. The quintet consisting of Gary Lightbody (vocals and guitar), Nathan Connolly (guitar and backing vocals), Paul Wilson (bass), Jonny Quinn (drums), and Tom Simpson (keyboards) first came to my attention with their cover of John Lennon's "Isolation" on the Instant Karma album for Amnesty International, but they were already enjoying a major commercial breakthrough with their 2006 release Eyes Open. Now they return with a new CD called A Hundred Million Suns. Like its predecessor, the new album has some good tracks and is worth a few listens, but left me thinking the band is capable of better.

A Hundred Million Suns hits its best stride with the single "Take Back the City." The song is introduced with a driving acoustic guitar, but Lightbody really strikes gold with the bridge -- "It's a mess, it's a start, it's a flawed work of art." Most of the album follows a basic formula of mid-tempo rock, with a few ballads and occasional outbursts of heavier music thrown in for variety. The group gets really ambitious, though, with the closing track "The Lightning Strike," a three-part song cycle that runs over sixteen minutes. It reflects a surprising amount of daring on the band's part, and each of the three parts is compelling enough on its own to make the whole strong, in spite of the length.

Snow Patrol seem to be making a career out of being consistently pretty good. I suppose that could be taken as a backhanded compliment, but I do like them, and I think A Hundred Million Suns is a step forward for them. I just feel that they're one ingredient short of really taking their music to the next level. I'm not sure what the missing piece is, but I hope they find it.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott

"Take Back the City"

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