I've been listening to the upcoming Snow Patrol album, Eyes Open, for the last few days. The verdict, unfortunately, is that it's not up to par. I usually give albums some time to grow, but I don't think this album is a "grower." Ten Silver Drops by Secret Machines is a grower. Twin Cinema by my beloved New Pornographers is a grower. Eyes Open, in the parlance of our times, is what it is.
It's hard for me to trash this album. Writing quality pop is daunting work. Final Straw is a desert island album, and trying to live up to its quality was a near-impossible task. Eyes Open isn't awful. There are some good songs. But there are just as many forgettable songs, and there are no great songs. Nothing on this album compares to "Run," or "Wow," or any number of tracks from Final Straw. Also missing is the weight and sharpness that each of Final Straw's tracks carried. By comparison, Eyes Open is transparent and dull.
I hesitate to read into the increased emphasis on the vocal track and the easily-digested lyrical content, because the reaction ("they sold out!") is too predictable, and they weren't such hard-core outsiders to begin with. But they could have made an album with a vision and a purpose, and Eyes Open doesn't have one. The move from the outside to the inside may lead to any number of changes, but a loss of quality is not necessarily one of them.
Take Death Cab for Cutie's Plans, for example. You may not like their follow-up to Transatlanticism, but Plans is still a well-conceived, well-executed, purposeful album. They boiled their sound down to its barest essentials, but it still feels uniquely like Death Cab; I cannot imagine another band recording Plans. Eyes Open, meanwhile, could have been made by any number of bands. There's no stamp of identity, no verve, no charm that separates it from the chaff.
Too bad. Snow Patrol is a great live act. I imagine they will lend a great deal of energy to their tracks when their stage show arrives. But that won't help the album itself.