Snow Patrol has beaten most bands to the punch by coming out with a greatest hits collection for the holidays. After all, there are only about six weeks between now and Christmas!
Most retrospectives are shameless cash grabs by the artist and/or the record company. Those that have a conscience may try to redeem their souls with a few new songs or rarities to add value for the fans.
At first glance, the track listing of Snow Patrol’s “Up to Now” fits the mold, but when you listen to this string of hits in succession it becomes a testament to the consistent greatness that flew under the radar for far too long. Simply put, stacking these tunes next to one another makes you fall in love with this band all over again.
I have been a Snow Patrol fan since 1998’s “Songs for Polar Bears” album. Back then, it was an exercise in indie cool (and a small measure of pretentiousness) to name drop Snow Patrol as one of your favorite bands.
Then along came “Chasing Cars,” and the “Eyes Open” disc in 2005, and the rest of the world copped on to what all the fuss was about.
No one cheered louder than Snow Patrol fans when these Northern Ireland underdogs made it big -- that is, until the teenyboppers and Top 40 radio programmers took hold of the song and made it into a musical pandemic that made H1N1 feel like a mild cold.
Last year’s “Hundred Million Suns” saw the band riding the wave and taking little chances. Imagine the surprise, then, when you first hear Snow Patrol tear into Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love.”
Risky as hell and a stroke of genius on many levels, the brassy soul horns and hyperactive dance vibe in the original now replaced with a slower timing and wicked guitar hook that brings out a desperate ache from Gary Lightbody’s raspy deadpan delivery. With such success, could a cover of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” be that far behind?
Four years later, I can only now begin to stomach hearing “Chasing Cars” on the radio again. It is a classic song and so is “Just Say Yes,” one of the other new tunes on “Up to Now.”
It is an immaculate, cheery piece of pop that finds the band in touch with its inner Erasure. “Just say yes/just say there’s nothing holding you back,” Lightbody pleads over a slinky electronic beat. Clearly a musical departure from anything they’ve ever done before, “Just Say Yes” makes you want more from a band you thought you were sick of.
“Starfighter” is a dirty glam masterpiece from their first album, and it oozes out of your speakers without a trace of mold.
The distorted power chords of “Hands Open” near the soulful riffing on “Shut Your Eyes” reveals a new diversity that you probably never gave the band credit for, while the skittish paranoia in the alt rock masterpiece “Spitting Games” is a blast from the past that is a reminder of what made this Snow Patrol so cool in the first place.
It almost makes you forgive them for creating chick flick soundtrack fodder like “Crack the Shutters,” which blemishes this collection somewhat.
“Keep your hands away/from what you can’t afford/don’t think that we’ll stay/now that you look bored,” deadpans Lightbody on “Batten Down the Hatch,” a spacey gem of a ballad from the obscure “When It’s All Over We Still Have to Clear Up” from the band’s middle period.
“Up to Now” is an inspiring and breathtaking look back for Snow Patrol, who signed in 1995 to the Jeepster label, home of their Glaswegian indie heroes at the time, Belle and Sebastian.
"We spent 10 years making records that 6,000 people bought," Lightbody has been quoted as saying. "Success to us isn't a chart thing, it's when you turn up to play a gig and find the place is full."
“Up to Now” will certainly bring in more fans under the Snow Patrol tent!