I must have been pretty hungry for a new album review to go sniffing around Snow Patrol’s Fallen Empires this past week. Business had slowed considerably as we hit Christmas season and album releases basically stopped after El Camino and Snow Patrol was the only band on recognized on the list of album releases this past week. Like the majority of people, my only exposure to Snow Patrol was their subdued but histrionic single “Chasing Cars.” The song itself was a tad high school emotional for me, but it really wasn’t so bad and I probably wouldn’t have minded it so much if the radio hadn’t played it to death. As you may have guessed by now, I didn’t go into Fallen Empires with the highest of expectations, but I was still willing to give it a chance.
Before I start poking in the holes in the over-expanded exposition of elementary back beats and morose lyrics, I would like to take the opportunity to say that Gary Lightbody (yes that is his birth name) is a pretty decent singer. All of their songs require a slightly saddened and labored sound and he pulls it off every single time. The weaknesses of the band and this album do not lie in his singing abilities. I think he does his best with crummy lyrics (which I will get to believe me), but he creates a somewhat unique and accessible sound. For that (and for virtually nothing else), I applaud them.
The basic story of the album’s production is how difficult Lightbody found the writing process. On more than one occasion, he mentioned how he was dealing with “bouts of writer’s block.” Back in September, Lightbody stated, “It’s the first time it’s happened for such a long time. I’ve had days when I haven’t been able to write.” If you actually sit down to listen to this album, you can tell right away. Every song seems inherently lazy from the beginning. Not only are the themes tiresome and simplistic (faded glory, endless love, Grey’s Anatomy episodes), but every song seems so repetitive. On the title track, Lightbody sings, “We are the light! We are the light!” for what feels like twenty consecutive minutes. Out of curiosity, I had to get a final count on the chant and was appalled to see that it came out to FORTY-EIGHT! FORTY-EIGHT times!! I don’t think they said “na” that many times in “Hey Jude!” And it’s not just that track! In “This Isn’t Everything You Are,” he begs “don’t keel over” endlessly, just as he states “We are listening/ And we’re not blind/ This is your life/ This is your time” six fucking times at the end of “Called Out in the Dark.” I’m not suggesting that the band isn’t entitled to a refrain or reappearances of lyrics, but it seems obvious that Lightbody just kind of gave up on the writing process. If he had something, he just hit ‘copy and paste’ on it over and over again until the track was done. Just reading it is frustrating, but listening to it makes you want to ram your head against the wall.
The lyrics wouldn’t be as badly exposed as they are if the music was even halfway decent or creative. I’m well aware that the band is not known for their guitar play or innovative beats, but these sound like tutorials on garage band. They hide in the background of every song, which seems to be played in the same key and at the same tempo. Listening to it, it sounds as if the music was written entirely independent from the lyrics. There is absolutely nothing to be found there, even with multiple listens. If you’re looking for something to have on quietly in the background that you can easily ignore and have no memory of later than it is perfect. I expect that you will hear this quietly in the background of some network television shows for years to come.
Like I said, I’m hungry for new music. So much so that I took a bite of something I didn’t really want. As a result, I think it’s coming back up.