Snow Patrol: Eyes Open

So what has Gary Lightbody decided to do with his newfound clout? Sometimes it's not the album that gets you famous that's the sellout.

Snow Patrol

Eyes Open

Contributors: Gary Lightbody
Label: Interscope
US Release Date: 2006-05-09
UK Release Date: 2006-05-01
iTunes affiliate

Even before Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody drops Sufjan Stevens's name, you get a good idea of what Eyes Open is all about. Lightbody sums it up earlier in the same song, when he asks, "Why would I sabotage the best thing that I have?" For all his wet-eyed emoting, then, Lightbody is a bean counter at heart. Because on the evidence here, the best thing Lightbody has is the money that comes from a world-beating, surefire hit.

You can't accuse all bands of selling out on the album that gets them popular. Take Snow Patrol, for example. After a couple DIY albums, they were dropped from an indie label, meaning that they sold no albums outside their immediate families and closest friends. So you can't blame them for falling in line when major label Polydor gave them a second chance. For some bands, hired-gun producers, radio-friendly mixers, and power chords aren't a sellout -- they're survival. Plus, 2004 breakthrough Final Straw was pretty good arena-friendly indie-rock, targeting mainstream tastes without sacrificing Lightbody's vulnerability and stinging way with a lyric.

No, some bands sell out on the album after the one that gets them big. Because, at that point, they have the commercial capital to challenge themselves, their audience, even their label. Doing this doesn't require an In Utero or Kid A, just some creative growth, the desire to peek around a new corner. Just ask the Flaming Lips. Lightbody, though, has turned tail and run toward the middle of the road... and past it.

Some people can't stomach Woody Allen movies because they can't watch without thinking of his personal life, however good the film may be. Eyes Open is far from a horrible album. It's easy to listen to, it's melodic, and it's well-read. But you're a strong (or naïve) listener if you can get past the calculation, the number-crunching, the crassness with which Lightbody has taken aim at the MySpace demographic. He might well be a Sufjan Stevens fan, but is it a coincidence that Stevens provides indie credibility and a name that plenty of "Friends" will actually recognize?

Maybe, just maybe, Lightbody merely noticed that "How to Be Dead" and "Spitting Games" were the two best songs on Final Straw, because most everything on Eyes Open attempts to rewrite them either lyrically, musically, or both. "You're All I Have" is blissful enough, with its "Wouldn't It Be Nice"-cribbing intro to the ooh ooh-ing and chugging guitars. But then, during the bridge, Lightbody gets stuck repeating the phrase "Gimmee a chance to hold on" four times in row, and you can almost feel him computing the radio-friendliness of his next move. "Beginning to Get to Me" swirls up some real tension, while "Finish Line" evokes a sort of washed-out euphoria. The music is professional, clean, and faceless. Try answering a question like, "What does Snow Patrol's drummer sound like?". Erm... ProTools?

The genuine moments are offset by tracks like "Chasing Cars", which would probably be the result of programming "Alternative Power Ballad" into IBM's Big Blue. It's only a matter of time before this bit of treacle plays over the end credits of a Lindsay Lohan vehicle (This just in: right idea, wrong show: "Chasing Cars" has been placed on the season finale of Grey's Anatomy). Even Lightbody's lyrics seem to have been dumbed down. In place of a line like "Dr. Jekyll is wrestling Hyde / For my pride" from "How to Be Dead", "Make This Go on Forever" offers this set of rhymes: not-got, should-could, fight-right, and long-wrong. And all this in service of a Britrock-by-numbers arrangement and over-the-top chorus that tries to be fatalistic but comes off like Andrew Lloyd Webber doing Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain".

Maybe this all sounds too cynical. But how much slack can you cut an album that comes with crowd singalongs already included (see "Shut Your Eyes")? Lightbody's supposed to be a humble, everyyoungman Belfastian. You might expect this sort of cold calculation from Robbie Williams or the Goo Goo Dolls. But Lightbody's not Robbie Williams and Snow Patrol aren't the Goo Goo Dolls. Yet.






"I'm an Audience Member, Playing This Music for Us": An Interview With Keller Williams

Veteran musician Keller Williams discusses his special relationship with the Keels, their third album together, Speed, and what he learned from following the Grateful Dead.


Shintaro Kago's 'Dementia 21' Showcases Surrealist Manga

As much as I admire Shintaro Kago's oddness as a writer, his artistic pen is even sharper (but not without problems) as evident in Dementia 21.


Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad Proclaim 'Jazz Is Dead!' Long Live Jazz!

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad bring their live collaborative efforts with jazz veterans to recorded life with Jazz Is Dead 001, a taste of more music to come.


"I'll See You Later": Repetition and Time in Almodóvar's 'All About My Mother'

There are mythical moments in Almodóvar's All About My Mother. We are meant to register repetition in the story as something wonderfully strange, a connection across the chasm of impossibility.


Electropop's CMON Feel the Noise on 'Confusing Mix of Nations'

Pop duo CMON mix and match contemporary and retro influences to craft the dark dance-pop on Confusing Mix of Nations.


'Harmony' Is About As Bill Frisell As a Bill Frisell Recording Can Be

Bill Frisell's debut on Blue Note Records is a gentle recording featuring a few oddball gems, particularly when he digs into the standard repertoire with Petra Haden's voice out front.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 4, James Chance to the Pop Group

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part four with Talking Heads, the Fall, Devo and more.


Raye Zaragoza's "Fight Like a Girl" Shatters the Idea of What Women Can and Can't Do (premiere)

Singer-songwriter and activist Raye Zaragoza's new single, "Fight Like a Girl", is an empowering anthem for intersectional feminism, encouraging resilience amongst all women.


VickiKristinaBarcelona Celebrate Tom Waits on "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" (premiere)

VickiKristinaBarcelona celebrate the singular world of Tom Waits their upcoming debut, Pawn Shop Radio. Hear "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" ahead of tomorrow's single release.


'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.


Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.