This Irish/Scottish five piece used to be my little secret, a cool cache of a band to prove that this aging hipster still knows what’s hip.
But then they had to go and sell 11 million albums, have a monster hit with “Chasing Cars,” and then spend the rest of the last decade rewriting the same tepid ballad that sold all those millions for them.
Imagine how surprised I was when I discovered how many surprises were inside of Fallen Empires!
The album begins with “I’ll Never Let Go,” an industrial electro-landscape with a caustic guitar riff that doesn’t sound very radio-friendly -- and that’s a good thing!
The five piece -- singer Gary Lightbody, guitarist Nathan Connolly, bassist Paul Wilson, drummer Jonny Quinn and keyboardist Tom Simpson -- began a musical road trip around California. They recorded tracks at Eagles Watch, a house in Santa Monica with widescreen windows and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Long-term collaborator Garret “Jacknife” Lee brought that sunny vibe into the mix.
“This is your life/this is your time,” sings Lightbody, sounding as thrilled as a guy like this can be.
According to a press release, the band was inspired by the Left Coast and a little competition.
"We wanted to make a massively ambitious record," says Lightbody. "Arcade Fire's last record The Suburbs made us realize that we had to up our game. It was amazing. We decided that we wanted to make a record unlike any other we've made before.”
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They succeed mightily. The disc is awash in distorted studio trickery that includes electro guitar riffs, club-friendly Eurotrash drum beats and, of course, the kind of anthemic choruses that inspire people to wave the lit screens of their smartphones above their heads in a stadium setting.
If LCD Soundsystem swung from The Joshua Tree, it might sound something like Fallen Empires.
"We started writing songs that were more playful, even rawer than before -- we were brave enough to do what we wanted as a band, rather than what convention dictated to us. It was tough at times, we were out of our comfort zone for most of it, but I think it's given us a great album,” says Lightbody.
“The cool wet grasses/the summer passes/frightened under attack/fallen flat on my back/arms and legs I’m too scared to bed,” Lightbody sings in the sinister, New Order-like title track.
It’s another whiplash twist in an album full of them. You can just hear it pulsing through the speakers of a nightclub or in an action sequence in the next Tom Cruise thriller.
Lightbody tells the press that band decided to release their "inner dance monkey" during recording sessions.
"’I'll Never Let Go’ is a proper night out track," he says. "It's full blown electro. There's always been a dance element to our music, but this time we've been a bit bolder with it.
“I'm looking forward to hearing some of these songs in a club because it'll get people going. I always see people walking off the dance floor when they play our records -- we're not that kind of band. ‘I’ll Never Let Go’ might change that."
Tracks like “The Symphony” and the tentative piano ballad “New York” will probably make it on the radio -- the other 13 brilliant tracks exist for the little underground hipsters who missed them so much!
Here, give 'I'll Never Let Go' off Snow Patrol's newest album 'Fallen Empires' a listen!:
An oldie but a goodie here's Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars":