Eyes Open is an album by a band that has been given a taste of the sweet narcotic of radio success. Gary Lightbody and the members of Snow Patrol have succumbed to the pursuit of all things mainstream, painting their new songs with the broadest of strokes. The most depressing part is how unnecessary this shift is.
Snow Patrol scored a minor hit on modern rock radio two years ago with the shimmering "Spitting Games," a tart pop pastry about teenage sexual awakening. The album from whence it came, Final Straw, was full of similarly strong tracks -- not edgy per se, but several notches above your John Mayers and Maroon 5s of the world. Still, Final Straw's breakout song was "Run," a Brit-pop anthem that managed to be simultaneously epic and kinda wimpy.
Eyes Open appears to be a self-imposed mandate to replicate the success of "Run." Anything that was either subtle or complicated has been erased to provide ready-made heart-on-sleeve love songs. How obvious is Eyes Open? Song titles include "You're All I Have," "You Could Be Happy" and "Make This Go On Forever." Paging Olivia Newton-John
The only clear highlight for fans of Snow Patrol's previous work is first single "Hands Open," which has a great, concise hook and makes its point in three minutes and eighteen seconds. Even here, though, Lightbody hits some false notes. It's curious that he chooses to, apropos of nothing, name-check Sufjan Stevens in the song, considering that (a) Sufjan fans would clearly scoff at any comparison and (b) any and all Adult Top 40 listeners will in unison say "Who Stevens?"
The Snow Patrol of Final Straw managed to resonate with a large number of listeners worldwide without pandering to the VH1 crowd or sucking up to the CMJ crowd. The secret was good songs. I know Gary Lightbody is capable of such things; I just wish he wouldn't have over-thought the formula this time around.
Snow Patrol Web site (streaming audio)Streaming audio