A Hundred Million Suns- Review

21 Nov

Guest writer Alistair Rolleston returns with a review of Snow Patrol’s latest album.

DISCLAIMER (from Another King and guest writer Alistair Rolleston): At Another King we generally have a policy of not dictating what songs we think you should or shouldn’t listen to however for the tenth song on this album we are making an exception. “Disaster Button” contains a very loud, obvious and unnecessary swear word and we would advise that you skip this song. You have been warned, it is not mentioned for the rest of the review.

A Hundred Million Suns

“Snow Patrol are back. Bigger and better than ever. Behold, I give to you their fifth studio album, “A Hundred Million Suns”

It’s hard to overstate how far Snow Patrol (originally called Polar Bear) have come since their humble starting in Dundee University in 1994. With their breakthrough album, “Final Straw”, the band gained almost instantaneous worldwide recognition after  10 years of obscurity.

Lightbody said that after years of writing about break ups, he wanted to write an album about love. Truth be told, I’m all for this more cheerful slant on life, I’ve been frequently told that my music library could do with being more cheerful, too much Dashboard Confessional, Muse and the like. The album is a pure symphony of sound that takes a while to get your head around. Don’t expect to be enthralled by it all right away; it took a while for it to grow on me. But rest assured, grow it did. From the dizzying heights of “If There’s a Rocket Tie Me to It”, through the ever-so-soft “Set Down Your Glass” to the 16 minute Epic that is “The Lightning Strike”, this album blew all reservations and worries I held about it out of my head.

My favourite song on the album has changed I’m sure no less that four times. Currently it sits at “Set Down Your Glass”, a beautiful slow soft melody Lightbody wrote because it was as close as he could get to painting how he felt. The frustration he feels at being a useless artist is palpable through the song, almost as if he’s saying “I’m sorry, but this is as good as I can do, I don’t care how fantastic it is, it’s still not good enough for you.”

Other songs deserve special mention. “The Planets Bend Between Us” uses fantastic imagery of Ireland’s coastline, creating scenes of running and screaming down the beach for the fun of it. “The Lightning Strike” is a full 16 minutes long, a time Meatloaf himself would be proud of. Split into three parts, it moves through a midnight storm through to the daybreak the following morning, following “The planet’s last dance”, whatever that means…

For all that the album does well, please don’t think that I think it’s perfect. It’s not. Lightbody’s lyrics in places are downright shoddy, with “Crack the Shutters” springing forcibly to mind, where he seems to have forgotten how to rhyme. I’m not entirely sure what happened, whether he’s trying to closely relate the lyrics to events in his own life, or if the song was simply written in a bit of a hurry. Whatever the reason, it suffered as a result.

Critical reception of the album so far has been… mixed. For every good review I’ve read of it, I’ve found a mediocre one as well. Not bad, but mediocre. Oft quoted is that this album seems to sound a lot like their last, and that songs are beginning to sound similar.

Well if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

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8 Responses to “A Hundred Million Suns- Review”

  1. Adam November 21, 2008 at 10:19 pm #

    Must say, I thought this album was brilliant, whether it was as good as previous albums- I am undecided.

  2. Cromie R November 22, 2008 at 2:32 am #

    Good review Ali, and I’m glad someone else has noticed Gary Lightbody’s almost complete lack of a sense of rhyme, he’s a repeat offender and it’s a big annoyance for me! That aside though, it’s an alright album, no dirges, but nothing ground-breaking either. Track 1 is pretty good. That 16-minute one, however, wasn’t such a hot idea…

  3. Andy November 22, 2008 at 11:50 pm #

    I felt they were not pushing themselves with this album, and I read an interview where Gary said as much, something along the lines of “consolidation”. I was really hoping for something a lot less produced, I recall an interview from 2006 where Gary said that with the next album they were hoping to record a lot of it live and that it would have a lot more of an edge.. Sadly this just wasn’t the case.

    Having said all that I still like it..it makes no sense..

  4. Daniel Ritchie November 23, 2008 at 12:31 am #

    The bloke sitting down looks like Philip McCollum. ;)

  5. erin November 27, 2008 at 7:57 pm #

    noo cromie….. i disagree…. i really like the long one!! its like one of the best songs on the album!

  6. James November 28, 2008 at 4:46 pm #

    My choice of favourite song on the album keeps changing too. When I first listened I felt a little short-changed after looking forward to it for ages but now I absolutely love it and can’t stop listening to it. Album of the year?

    I agree with Daniel perhaps Philip’s whole going-to-America thing was just a cover. Has anyone ever seen Philip McCollum and Gary Lightbody in the same room? I haven’t!

  7. Hail Gudfueic November 28, 2008 at 11:16 pm #

    I find this sort of music intellectually unstimulating and wish you would report on some of the more classical composers works. Wagner and Monteverdi are personal favourites. Do you have one you particularly esteem?

  8. Andy mcn November 29, 2008 at 4:04 pm #

    James I reckon the kings of leon album “only by the night” is prob the album of the year. It has much more catchy tunes that this album.

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