It’s been over seven years since we’ve had a studio album by Irish rockers Snow Patrol, but the wait is finally over with the release of Wildness, the band’s seventh LP.
According to frontman Gary Lightbody, the delay in releasing any material came down to his battles with depression and alcoholism, two issues he tries to start a dialogue about with the release of the album. The 10-track album, combined with alternate versions for half of them, is an enjoyable attempt—only undone by Snow Patrol’s embracing of a conventional sound.
The album kicks off with ‘Life on Earth’, a staple alternative rock track that utilises each of the members quite well and gives ample space for even drummer Jonny Quinn to shine, who often goes unnoticed in most of Snow Patrol’s other works.
‘Don’t Give In’, however, sounds like a mediocre motivational poster gifted by your parents before your board exams.
The sixth track ‘What If This Is The Love You’ll Ever Get’ is this album’s highlight— a love ballad over a calm piano solo, and perhaps one of their best, along with ‘Chasing Cars’ and ‘Run’.
However, its followed by ‘A Youth Written in Fire’, which lacks any direction or meaning, and immediately puts off the mood— right from Lightbody’s first falsetto asking “Remember the first time we got high?”
‘Soon’ outlines Lightbody’s struggle with his father’s dementia, and is a rare thoughtful track on the entire album. Listening to him sing about the difficulties in tackling the illness and learning to deal with the fact that it won’t be long before Lightbody himself deals with such issues touches the listener’s heart (“Soon you’ll not remember anything// But then someday neither will I”).
The album ends with ‘Light and Death’, a disappointing conclusion, especially considering the title of the song and the flow of the album.
Although an admirable attempt, the album reads like Lightbody’s personal diary only a couple of songs in. Not that there is anything wrong with that — plenty of bands often focus on the lead singer’s struggles or issues. But when the songs brood about similar topics with fairly standard riffs and tried-and-tested crescendos made famous by the Beatles and perfected by Oasis, it begins to sound repetitive and uninspired.
What works best for the album is the alternative versions of the songs, which do sound much better and more serene— something that Snow Patrol’s songs have often been associated with. ‘Heal Me’ particularly stands out in this regard.
Gary Lightbody and the rest of Snow Patrol are justified in a later-than-expected release of their seventh and much-awaited album. Dealing with substance abuse, mental health issues, combined with a raging writer’s block aren’t problems to be glossed over. However, the band also needs to realise that a lacklustre attempt at churning out content isn’t always the best way to go.
All things considered, expect Snow Patrol to be headlining Glastonbury and belting out hits from Wildness, however underwhelming they might sound. After all, it’s what they do best.