“Eyes Open” by Snow Patrol

It recently occurred to me that I could analyze albums as if they were lyric cycles, so I started doing so for albums I really liked.  Then even more recently it occurred to me that I could post those reviews on my blog like any other review, so here’s my latest effort:

As I continue to move backwards through SP’s oeuvre (or is it discography if it’s a band? Something like that), I continue to gain an appreciation for their earlier work, which at first I considered to be uneven. The talent was clear, but not all the songs grabbed me right off the bat. However, returning to, or discovering for the first time, their earlier albums after listening to their recent releases, I can see the development of overarching themes, as well as appreciate their musical style, which is, well, it’s beginning to get to me (pun intended).

To state the blindingly obvious, “Eyes Open” is an album about relationships, specifically, romantic ones. The lyrical “I” of the songs is searching for his other half, and trying to find it in another person. Unsurprisingly, his path is strewn with thorns. The album opens with the hopeful and yet faintly menacing “You’re All I Have,” followed by the aggressive, plea-filled “Hands Open,” as the lyrical “I” realizes that he might not be able to get what he so desperately wants–perhaps because of his own self-sabotage. “Chasing Cars” seems more positive, but the entire song is based on a premise, not actuality, and the speaker frankly admits the impossibility of expressing what he wants to express and bridging the gap between himself and the addressee. The insurmountability of this gap is contemplated from various angles in the next several songs; it seems that it might be overcome in the optimistically-titled “Open Your Eyes” (a nice balancing contrast with the earlier “Shut Your Eyes”), but again, it’s more of a wish or a plea than a fact. It is not until we reach “The Finish Line” and the bonus track “Warmer Climate” that the music and the lyrics both soften into something more accepting and less desperate, as the lyrical hero gains some distance from his problem of too much distance from the object of his desire. However, there is also a suggestion that the whole cycle is just that, a cycle, and that it could start over again at any time. Like the album cover, which shows a couple embracing, but with a hint of barbed wire separating them, the songs themselves tell a story of trying to reach out and cross the void that exists between two people, but of getting caught in spiky obstacles every time.

Hmmm, maybe I’ve been reading too much into this. Or not. I know that a lot of people consider SP to be pleasant Brit Pop, crowned by Lightbody’s smooth voice, and there is certainly that aspect to the album, but it is also full of jagged musical edges and cleverly mocking and emotionally intense lyrics, and it stands up to multiple listens and close scrutiny as a work of art. Since this is the album that contain’s SP’s big breakout hit, I assume that that’s what most first-time listeners are going to head for, but the rest of the album is just as deserving of attention.

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