My goodness, has it really been seven years since the last Snow Patrol album? It has indeed. But you’ll soon know why when you listen through all 10 tracks of Wildness.
Lead singer Gary Lightbody looks backward to his youth and forward to his body breaking down, confronts his battles with alcohol and depression, as well as touches on his father’s dementia and explores various ways we get wild. The result is a fantastically ambitious collection of songs, one more direct and intimate than many previous Snow Patrol offerings.
Lightbody experiments with his vocal range and the rest of the band – multi-instrumentalist Johnny McDaid, guitarist Nathan Connolly, bassist Paul Wilson and drummer Jonny Quinn – are in top form under longtime producer Jacknife Lee.
Album opener Life On Earth is majestic and grand, both personal and yet universal, carried by a string quartet and drum flourishes. It’s bold and brilliant. It sounds like something we should send out on the next spacecraft to tell aliens what humanity is all about. It’s that good.
A few songs later, it’s just Lightbody and McDaid on piano for the exquisite, stripped-down What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get? (“What if it hurts like hell?” he asks. “I know the wreckage so well.”) Like many songs on the album, it takes a few unexpected turns.
Lightbody looks backward in the nicely layered A Youth Written In Fire (“Remember the first time that we kissed?”) and pours so much heartache into the stirring Don’t Give In that he seems to be singing about himself. It’s so intimate and needy that you’ll want to wrap it in a blanket and put it beside a fire.
Snow Patrol gets positively slinky for A Dark Switch and on the heartbreaking Soon, Lightbody comforts his ailing dad. “Tomorrow is nothing to fear because, father, it’s always today,” he sings. “The secret storms of your wild youth/ Now just gentle breezes warm and faint.”
While not every song rises to these high levels – and the closing Life And Death underwhelms, especially with such an enterprising title – Wildness signals a triumphant Snow Patrol return. – Mark Kennedy/AP