Read anything about Snow Patrol in the music press and you’ll find that they’re mentioned in the same breath as Belle and Sebastian. Sure, they’re Jeepster label mates, and they used to share a drummer, but that’s as far as the connection goes. You only have to listen to the first few seconds of album opener ‘Downhill From Here’ to realise that Snow Patrol are just….louder than Belle and Sebastian could ever be. Stylistically Snow Patrol are a divine mixture of fuzzy guitars, synthesisers and decks, all wrapped up with the gorgeously tender vocals of front man Gary Lightbody.
Second track on ‘Songs For Polar Bears’, ‘Starfighter Pilot’ is the single which has given them the most air play, and it does possess a certain ‘twee’ charm, but it sure as hell doesn’t show what Snow Patrol are really made of. ‘Absolute Gravity’ on the other hand, boasts one of the funkiest bass intros ever to be heard on a record that doesn’t hail from the seventies disco scene, thanks to the input of ‘secret’ fourth band member DJ ‘Scratchy’ Tom. Furthermore, live favourite ‘Get Balsamic Vinegar…..Quick You Fool’ houses one of the finest sing-a-long lines that you’re ever likely to hear. (“I don’t want to hurt her feelings but she’s a crazy f*ed up bitch.”)
As all good albums should, ‘Songs For Polar Bears’’ does have its more quiet moments. ‘Mahogany’ sees the overheated amplifiers cast aside, in favour of an acoustic feel and ‘Fifteen Minutes Old’, by far one of the album’s highlights, is heartbreaking. (“Speechless, breathless I can’t tell you if I’m here or not.”)
Describing Snow Patrol is a pretty difficult task, in that there aren’t many other bands with a similar sound to theirs. On first appearances for example, ‘NYC’ appears to be a laid back, retro track with its eerie keyboards, but the contrasting chorus of intense guitars and catchy “ba-ba-do-ba-do-dooo” (very bad description!) vocals, adds an entirely different angle.
But all said and done, Snow Patrol are never going to be ‘big’, and rightly so. Part of their appeal comes from the fact that they know they’re never going to appear on ‘Top Of The Pops’, but they are something a little bit special and deserve not to be categorised with their label mates.
But you don’t need me to tell you this. Next time you see a Snow Patrol CD floating around in the racks of your local music shop, give them a chance. They may just surprise you.
Those tracks in full: Downhill From Here, Starfighter Pilot, Last Shot Ringing In My Ears, Absolute Gravity, Get Balsamic Vinegar….Quick You Fool, Mahogany, NYC, Little Hide, Make Up, Velocity Girl, Days Without Paracetamol, Fifteen Minutes Old, Favourite Friend, One Hundred Things You Should Have Done In Bed.