Snow Patrol has brushed off the softness of their Belle and Sebastian-style past for Final Straw, their major label debut. It’s survival of the fittest, or survival of the hardest, or maybe it’s just creative evolution. Either way, it’s a record that’s hard to resist. Most of Final Straw finds lead singer Gary Lightbody negotiating a crumbling relationship (the end of which may or may not be his fault—blame is placed on drugs, fuzzy memories and lots of “he said, she said”), opening with “How To Be Dead,” a reluctant mea culpa that’s so gentle you find yourself forgiving him before he even pleads his case. The Scottish band’s music still borders on precious, and Lightbody’s lyrics are often too simple for their own good, but there are plenty of exceptional, poetically broken-up moments, like on “Chocolate”: “This is the final straw in the/Roof of my mouth as I lie to you/Just because I’m sorry doesn’t mean/I didn’t enjoy it at the time.” Final Straw is given a big-budget treatment thanks to producer Garrett Lee, who infuses Snow Patrol’s wispy songs with electronic loops, oodles of guitar and vocal effects, and miniature waves of bristly guitars. At times it seems as if the band is shuffling drunkly through a giant jukebox at some pub (there are shades of The Cranberries, Coldplay, R.E.M., Pink Floyd and The Beatles, as well as a slew of European indie rockers), but Final Straw is a pleasantly cohesive (not to mention sobering) work. As Lightbody sings on the track “Wow”: “If it looks like it works/And it feels like it works/Then it works.”
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