Snow Patrol
A Hundred Million Suns
Geffen/Fiction

2 out of 5 Stars

Like it or not, Snow Patrol’s music is everywhere. The Irish soft-rock quintet’s songs have been featured on the hit show “Grey’s Anatomy” and in blockbuster “Spider-Man 3.” Its doe-eyed ballad “Chasing Cars” topped the iTunes download charts and its album Eyes Open had strong showings on the Billboard 200 in 2006. Even though Snow Patrol’s earnest façade deflects criticism, its market presence betrays predatory instincts.

The band’s accessibility guarantees it’ll be heard for decades to come — in romantic comedies, malls, weddings and supermarkets.

Confined to the bland genre hell of “adult contemporary,” Snow Patrol is often compared to those bore-core charlatans, Coldplay. While Coldplay is an industry juggernaut, Snow Patrol is likely an extended flash-in-the-pan. It’s also more down-to-earth, even when crafting stadium-size singles. A Hundred Million Suns sees the band striving to capture the grandeur of U2 circa Joshua Tree in its own “look what a sensitive dude I am” sort of way. Thankfully, these energetic pop centerpieces are just emotional peaks in the band’s new, varied album.

“Crack the Shutters” is one of the more cloying songs on Suns. Spewing symphonic bombast and lyrics about how pretty lead singer Gary Lightbody’s girlfriend is, it could be stuffed perfectly into hour-long drama programs during sweeps week. On the heavier side, first single “Take Back the City” is appropriately addictive — a power-popper with hummable melodies from start to finish. Even so, there’s a strange life-or-death undercurrent to its lyrics: “Your city, your call / Every crack, every wall / Pick a side, pick a fight / Get your epitaph right.”

Snow Patrol isn’t short on poignant stanzas. In “Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands,” Lightbody laments that his memories are “One gigantic fairy tale / Of friends I haven’t seen in years / Drinking ‘til the daylight hurts.” Elsewhere the band tries to deliver a sequel to “Chasing Cars” with the somnolent “The Planets Bend Between Us,” but the attempt is too transparent — pianos and falsetto don’t guarantee high-quality songwriting. Sporting soulful and nuanced croons, “Lifeboats” emerges as a more successful cool-down track.

But dreamy musings aren’t the only element on the disc. “Disaster Button” is a rocker that sets itself apart with cryptic lyrics. What does Lightbody mean when he says “I am just a ripped up ticket stub,” and does it even matter? Another head-scratcher is the song’s instruction to “Hit that button there / The one that just says wrong / We’ll lose our lives to all our favorite songs.” It might be subversive, but it’s more likely just nonsense.

All told, Snow Patrol is above par in the “adult contemporary” domain, though that doesn’t mean much. Lightbody’s voice is charismatic and his songs neatly balance fluff and cynicism. But this tension is also what confuses the album. A Hundred Million Suns is as listenable as it is disposable, and will likely be irrelevant by next year. But people will be listening to it for years to come.

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