After listening to Final Straw by Snow Patrol, it's a little hard to tell that this is the same group that debuted on the same label (Jeepster) as tweesters Belle And Sebastian just a couple years back. Sure, there are still hints of that group, but most of what made their debut so unique have been slightly buffed away to reveal a much more polished and easier-to-swallow release. In short, it's basically all the things that people accuse groups of doing when they switch to a major label from a smaller one, but luckily for fans there's still a little of what made the group exciting shining through.
The disc opens with "How To Be Dead," and while it's one of the quieter tracks on the release, it's also one of the stronger ones. Opening with a mixture of acoustic and electric guitars, it builds nicely on soft vocals while peaking ever so slightly with a slight surge of drums and subtle electronic effects. From there, the album launches into a block of tracks that are catchy enough, but fall into a rut of faily standard power-pop with quieter verses and louder choruses. The streak of distorted guitar singalongs finally comes to a close with "Chocolate," and it's on this track (and the following "Run") that the group takes a crack at the Coldplay crowd with lovely chiming guitars and soaring vocals that rise over a lush mid-tempo track that works quite well.
"Grazed Knees" is easily the most understated track on the entire disc, and it sticks out as a clear winner as well with a bed of strings and chimes backing the usual guitars and vocals while "Ways And Means" feels the closest to the group of old with sharp dynamic shifts and a lovely layering of string stabs, pummeling drums, and punchy guitars. There's no doubt that with Final Straw, Snow Patrol has changed up their sound in a way that by all means should vault them into a more mainstream realm alongside groups like the aforementioned Coldplay and others. If you're a fan of their older work, you'll probably find yourself a bit turned-off here, but if you're a fan of well-played rock music with an ocassional burst to make it stick out from the masses doing the same, Final Straw might be something to check out.