It’s been the better part of seven years since Snow Patrol last released an album of new material, which is a virtual eternity in the contemporary music industry, and twelve years since Eyes Open rocketed up the charts off the back of international smash hit, Chasing Cars. The quintet’s seventh studio album, Wilderness, again sees Snow Patrol partner with Jacknife Lee as producer, a partnership which has been in place since the band’s third album, 2003’s Final Straw, and has proven to be quite successful.
Wilderness is a far cry from the sound of Eyes Open and Chasing Cars, which is both a blessing and a curse. From the outset, Wilderness is a frustrating album. Opening track, and second single, Life on Earth builds atmospherically with subdued vocals and a minimal arrangement on the verses, and more powerful delivery on the chorus, but the pieces of the puzzle are both too similar and too different to fit together satisfactorily. Each part it wonderful on its own, but the whole ends up being less than the sum of its parts.
Lead single, Don’t Give In, is four minutes of radio-friendly power-pop that, despite being objectively well crafted, it too polished for its own good, with its glossy execution leaving its moodiness feeling like a contrivance and highlighting that the song is too long. And that is basically how Wilderness is for its duration; a collection of solid parts that tease at something great and compelling but somehow end up lacking once they are placed together. While Wilderness demonstrates Snow Patrol’s ability as songwriters, it also demonstrates via absence just how important the “x-factor” is in making good music.