Mainstream indie favourites Snow Patrol have returned with their first album in seven years, following 2011’s Fallen Empires with Wildness. It finds the band, particularly frontman Gary Lightbody, delving into exceptionally personal ground as the band search for lucidity, affinity, and the true meaning, as Lightbody dedicates songs to his father, his godchildren and his friends. Seven years in the making, this feels like an intimate project, detailing and outlying the frontman’s life in the last decade in an emotional, yet surprisingly euphoric record, that has a lot more elasticity and resilience than you’d expect.
Wildness was born out of sadness. “There’s nothing really to protect myself for – it’s all in the album. I want to remember.” Lightbody states of the record, partially inspired by the singer’s father, who is suffering from dementia. “I think the album is defined by memory in a lot of ways, including my father’s loss of memory.” As such, Wildness feels exposed and tender, yet spontaneous and primitive. The title is no coincidence, the album taps into, “Something primal, alive and beautiful that speaks to our true connectivity, our passion, our love, our communion with nature and each other.”
The album launches with ‘Life On Earth’, which opens the album with its mission statement: “This is something else, this is something else.” Lightbody passionately sings with his trademark coarse vocals. It’s a slow-burner, and well worthy of the album’s opening track as the five minute long song slowly unfolds with a soaring chorus and dreamy vibe. The chorus of: “It shouldn’t need to be so fucking hard, this is life on earth” certainly has all the makings of a euphoric singalong in the live sphere. Likewise, lead single ‘Don’t Give In’ showcases a throaty, propulsive number that contains speckles of Americana, while contextually it explores Gary Lightbody’s experiences with depression. Explaining, he stated that, “The song became a self-fulfilling prophecy,” and it’s exactly here where Snow Patrol are at their best.
Elsewhere, the record falls into similar, monotonous Snow Patrol territory in the middle and struggles to pull itself out of it. ‘What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get?’ is a near-manipulative heartstring-puller that feels like it was made for a ‘sad moment’ in X-Factor, whereas album closer ‘Life and Death’ is a dull plodder, that explores love and forgiveness. They’re fine songs, if a bit bland, but it feels like a retread of their biggest moments some 15 years ago, which weren’t particular inspired anyway, as if the band haven’t progressed from 2006’s Eyes Open.
“Sometimes it takes you five years to write the thing. Like now. And you know for sure when you finish an album like that, where you’ve poured over every detail and put every atom of yourself into it, everything makes sense and I bet you I’m never not proud of this record,” Lightbody stated of this record. Whether you love or hate Snow Patrol, or you’re completely indifferent, you can’t say that Lightbody doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve – and it makes Wildness a sentimental and rousing listen. For fans this is a roaring success, for the casual listener, it’s hard not to be impressed by the passion the band are showcasing 25 years and seven records in.