Sparkle is an essential element in almost all U.K. guitar rock.
If a song is an earnest plea to an unrequited love, the piano must
twinkle. If it’s a soaring search for identity, expect the
guitars to clash serenely. Snow Patrol, a Northern Irish quartet,
provides so much shine on Final Straw one has to wonder if
it’s designed to conceal the under-cooked lyrics.

When front-man Gary Lightbody cries, “I’m broken and
colder than her,” on “Grazed Knees,” it’s
almost too confessional, a type of soggy meekness that produces
little emotional resonance with the listener. Most of the album is
filled with the same bleating and fussy lines. Other, more powerful
Brit-pop acts evoke more specific, affecting images with their
wordplay. Snow Patrol is content to let images of beaches and
hallways do what little they can.

Final Straw finds some redemption in the album’s
often lucid melodies and arrangement. Celestial whistles rush in at
the end of the album opening “How To Be Dead.”
“Ways & Means” has mechanical hisses that mesh well
with the song’s nonstop guitars.

Sadly, the album just doesn’t have enough of those
guitars. Snow Patrol is content to feast on pianos and elegant
reverb, never seeming to care that the dearth of guitars drains an
essential chemical from their music. Only occasionally does the
band let the guitars actually crack the lunar sheen. Even the
disintegrations of the disc’s songs share a controlled,
astute quality.

Perhaps the double-edged sword of this genre is while few of the
bands are horrid, most of them fall in a muddled twilight realm.
Spreading identical cascading pianos and starry-eyed verses across
a plethora of bands leaves a lush but empty plain of music. With no
vital thrust of guitars and scrawny lyrics, Final Straw trips on
its own gloss.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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