Snow Patrol - Final Straw | Album Review | By Volume

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Final Straw

Snow Patrol – Final Straw

It’s not as if I need the extra weight.

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Author: on December 2, 2013

Rare is the occasion that I steer myself away from writing about an album’s connection with my life, but in this instance, I’d like to try: Final Straw was the first album I owned, the first I (really fucking carefully) placed in an old stereo system in my family home and switched the lights off for. For a million reasons, this scene is obviously important to me. Because of it, somewhere at the back of my mind, Snow Patrol’s breakout album stands as the basest of all music, the obvious foundations from which anything less simple can be distilled and anything more complex can be grown. But this personal shit is so easy to find – we all have a first album, and they’re definitely not all as good as we almost certainly think, accidentally, that they are. But fuck it. On further inspection – something I’m only now, oddly, getting around to – Final Straw is brilliant.

It has that “Run” song, right? But hold on, because that track – glorious, melodic, anthemic – is the last track of a pivotal trio which is thoroughly simple but completely breathtaking. The lesser-known (perhaps) of those three cuts is “Chocolate”, a mid-tempo apology for infidelity which strides with urgency at an elusive pace. Gary Lightbody is masterful here in his guilt, but more so on “Spitting Games”, which finds him detailing a pretty weird classroom crush, cut through by a rising riff as intoxicating as that of Coldplay’s “Clocks”. And “Run”? I’ll skim through this because it’s ubiquitous, but also because I’m tethered to this song more than any other: it swirls and shudders in its gorgeousness, and as the closing song of a live set, it’s the kind of universal thing that actually feels universal. It was so obviously written from a place of real hope.

But that just leaves us, in the surrounding territory, with a collection of superb indie-rockers. “Grazed Knees” has intertwining, lush guitars and strings behind a couple making up; “Ways & Means” is decidedly more off-kilter – glitchy, almost. This is the easy thing to forget about Final Straw: at points it’s actually pretty fucking weird. It asks a troubling question of the formula-pop goliath this band have now become, with their trite verses and deafeningly empty choruses: where did all this boldness disappear to? It’s in the slow-burn, crackling dramatics of closer “Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking”, and it’s in the wordless chants and hand claps of “Tiny Little Fractures”, which may be Snow Patrol’s best ever recording. I recall noting the impression of these things at a younger age, but it’s far more elegantly-executed than I knew.

Say the first thing that comes into your head when you see me“, opens the chorus of jagged second song “Wow”. I’ve always assumed this line and its title to be question and answer, both in-song and out. When I alluded, earlier, to the fact that this record sat at the bottom of my musical knowledge as the root of everything under and above it, I was being flippant, but there’s a truth to it.  Final Straw is a very, very brave pop album, one of those rare beasts which shoots in equal measure for the heart and for the ears. It balances its urges supremely, teetering between glimmering production and strokes of sonic genius. It has hooks, but even the most obvious of them doesn’t feel built to ensnare a listener. What Final Straw exudes more than anything is the essence of a band with an ear for a chorus and something to prove. We can probably all agree that, once the latter of those attributes dissolved, things went awry. But I don’t think my love for this record is even born from nostalgia at all, any more. Final Straw is brilliant.

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