Review : Snow Patrol - Up to Now
PitchforkHere's a depressing exercise: Sit down and try to figure out how many of the bigger alt-rock bands that emerged this past decade will one day crank out a half-decent greatest-hits album. It's a short list. The White Stripes will release a great one. So will Coldplay, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the Killers. Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party have a chance, and Tegan and Sara could get there, too. And... that's pretty much it. Many of the great alt-rock artists of this decade were also the great alt-rock artists of the decade before-- Radiohead, Beck, Björk, the Flaming Lips, etc. With radio going directly into the shitter, most good rock bands haven't had a chance to make anything that could, even charitably, be regarded as a hit. Sorry, Animal Collective. The whole function of a greatest-hits album-- to rescue transcendent pop singles from shitty or just-OK albums-- doesn't even make sense when transcendent, monocultural pop is something that barely even exists anymore.
Given a few more OK albums, widescreen MOR archdukes Snow Patrol might've snuck their way into the above paragraph. Snow Patrol have always come across like a more workmanlike Coldplay. Same celestial choruses, same overwhelming sense of longing, same epic U2-derived comfort-food melodies. But with Snow Patrol, you never get the idea that they're out to save the world or get their faces plastered up 80 feet high in Times Square. Even their biggest, most heartstring-yanking tunes ("Chasing Cars", "Run") concern simple and relatable experiences: falling in love and shutting the whole world out, or falling out of love and feeling your whole world crumble. They're good at what they do, and they've quietly built up a deeply solid and satisfying run of singles. It shouldn't be a problem for these guys to slap together 12 of their biggest and call it a day.
That's not what they do on Up to Now. Instead, the band has to throw every goddamn thing at the wall: singles, sure, but also B-sides and unreleased tracks and covers and side-project joints and live tracks. If you just want to hear the hits, you're not going to need a set of random tracks from the Reindeer Section, the Scottish indie supergroup that Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody also leads in his spare time. And if you're such a die-hard Snow Patrol completist that you need all their shitty B-sides, you're... well, I don't know what the hell your deal is, but you probably don't need to own "Chasing Cars" again. The result: two deeply overstuffed CDs with a few great moments but just as many songs that nobody will ever need to hear a second time....full text
RollingstoneSnow Patrol found a wide audience as a kind of Coldplay minus the world-conquering aspiration. The Irish lite rockers' glistening atmospherics and genteel grandiosity made sweeping melancholy feel fragile and private. This two-CD best-of draws mostly from the three albums they've made since 2004, when singer-guitarist Gary Lightbody jettisoned his low-fi Belle and Sebastian side on the austerely gushing Final Straw. Lightbody sums up his worldview on Snow Patrol's biggest hit, "Chasing Cars": "Would you lie with me and just forget the world?" But 30 songs of soft-focus gorgeousness can make his comfy hideaway a bit claustrophobic....full text
DrownedinsoundOne of the biggest reasons bands like The Strokes took off so quickly was that back in 2001 they were seen as a sort of Superhero of Cool, sweeping the country away from the boring Villain of MOR, typified by the likes of Travis, Turin Breaks and Coldplay. As the decade has progressed, however, the acoustic wet blanket sounds of Middle England have risen again to the point we routinely have to tolerate The Script and Scouting For Girls on radio, TV and magazines. For many Snow Patrol represent all that is horrible about this music with their emotive anthems and stadium shows full of £50 Tesco man and his “I like a bit of everything” girlfriend. Unlike many of their peers, however, Snow Patrol have a blood line of independent labels, toilet venue tours and uber-indie side projects.
You don’t need me to tell you that the band used to be signed to an independent label and that 2003’s Final Straw was not their first album. However it is worth mentioning again purely to illustrate how much things have changed. Forming in 1994 at University in Dundee, the group eventually signed with Jeepster who decided to use the same blue print that had achieved them success with Belle and Sebastian and allow Snow Patrol to grow organically, picking up word of mouth buzz as they went. Two albums later and things were not good. The band had to muster up £200 to get their name in the hat for a Mercury prize nomination, Lightbody had to sell his record collection and the ‘final straw’ (arf) came when Snow Patrol played a gig to 18 people in a strip club where the owners had to remove the dancers' poles before they could perform....full text
PitchforkIt's hard to think of gruff Tom Waits getting his start as an earnest, albeit eccentric singer-songwriter in the 1970s. Almost immediately after releasing his debut, Closing Time, in 1973, Waits began shaking up his act and developing the oddball facets of his current persona: the hipster Beat delivery, the fascination with prowlers of back alleys and underbellies, the appreciation for jazz and blues and other American idioms, and the unmistakable voice that has grown stranger and more thunderous with each album. By the 1980s, the transformation was complete, although albums like swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs were gambits, alienating as many fans as they attracted. In the 2000s and likely in the 2010s, few of his peers have proven so durable, so unique, so successful.
His music no longer begins and ends with an acoustic guitar and a piano, but his foundational commitment to these instruments has kept his musical excursions anchored to a songcraft that favors strict structures and bold melodies. Critically speaking, Waits-- aided and abetted by wife and musical partner, Kathleen Brennan-- is a tinkerer, assembling musical contraptions out of various styles and traditions and synthesizing blues, rock, jazz, schmaltz balladry, and even hip-hop into a truly idiosyncratic art. But I seriously doubt anyone bought tickets for his Glitter and Doom Tour last year because of his relationship to American blues. Instead, they went to see Waits the showman's showman, who regales them with tall tales of hopeless city dwellers and heartbroken hucksters with a campfire intimacy that makes these otherworldly denizens feel very real. He comes across as a scourge of the past, an affront to the modern world of blogs, bailouts, and reality TV....full text
BbcBecause Tom Waits has always been a larger-than-life, older-than-the-hills character occupying a much younger man’s body, even now he actually sounds much older than he actually is. He turns 60 next month.
He has come through three distinct stages in his career. The first, which spanned the 70s, saw him play second fiddle to both Dylan and Springsteen as a blue-collar barfly poet. But it wasn’t until he signed to Island Records and started developing his hyper-real skid row, junkyard take on the blues and rock’n’roll that he really hit his stride. And then after signing with punk independent Anti in the 90s, strangely he has become increasingly avant-garde – perverting the usual career path of the star of a certain age.
This live album is odd then as it draws influence stylistically from all three sections of his career. It was recorded recently at venues in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Dublin and other American and European cities during a world tour. There is a sense of disconnect between the crumpled singer from his touchstone albums (Swordfishtrombones, The Black Rider, Mule Variations et al) and the bombastic entertainer in full flow here. The trouble is that Waits is a very intimate artist and on a track such as Singapore (the opening song from what’s probably his finest album, 1985’s Rain Dogs) he relies on a skeleton’s rib cage marimba and parping tuba to intertwine subtly. Live, the same track has to swell to fill the kind of venue that he probably didn’t have in mind when sitting at a piano and writing, and subtlety loses out to bluster....full text
GuardianEvery storyteller needs an audience, but Waits is a master fabulist whose diabolic razzle dazzle looms particularly great and grand in front of a crowd, as this 17-track feast of live performances demonstrates. The penultimate offering, "Story", a rasped yarn about purchasing Henry Ford's last breath on eBay, gives a taste of Disc 2, which comprises nigh on half an hour of "Tom's Tales": they're unfailingly, brilliantly off-kilter but not a patch on the songs themselves, of which "Make it Rain" from 2004's Real Gone, is a standout – the audience's rhythmic handclaps drive its raw blues along to an incantatory intensity....full text
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