Snow Patrol, 'A Hundred Million Suns' (Geffen)

7
A Hundred Million Suns
Critical Mass
Label: Geffen

by Josh Modell

In a climate noisy with hip-hop, shiny R&B, bashful indie, and rockers who exploit grunge's worst traits, Snow Patrol stand out as staggeringly straight-arrow, playing spacious rafter-rock that practically begs to be loved. In fact, these Irishmen have only one real contemporary: Coldplay.

Both bands traffic in almost solicitously earnest anthems but come across as humbly as arena-friendly outfits possibly could. (Snow Patrol wear the humility crown alone, now that Coldplay design their own costumes.) Perhaps emboldened by the success of 2006's platinum Eyes Open -- home to the Grey's Anatomy–bolstered "Chasing Cars" -- Snow Patrol don't seem as beholden to big hooks (again, see Coldplay) on album five, but they still keep things likably grand. "Crack the Shutters" and the urgent "Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands" surge on skyscraping choruses, while a pair of winning ballads, "Set Down Your Glass" and "The Planets Bend Between Us," defeat cheesiness with unabashed sincerity.

It's a neat, rare trick. And after expertly delivering what's expected, Snow Patrol ask for one minor indulgence: The final track, a 16-minute suite called "The Lightning Strike," links three distinctly darker, more textured songs into one dramatic whole. It's not a radical departure -- there's no Kid A in their future -- but rather an engaging sidestep for a band that does triumphantly normal better than almost anyone.

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