With Final Straw, Snow Patrol mainman Gary Lightbody seems to take all the inspiration he's gathered from the superstar collaborators in his Reindeer Section project and bundle it into a series of earnest bombastic rock ballads. Producer Garrett Lee deserves credit up-front for expanding the band's sound even further from the lush symphonic grandeur of When It's All Over We Still Have to Clear Up. Here, Lightbody and his cohorts traverse the same anthemic territory as Idlewild, with guitars cranked to the max. But where his friend Roddy Woomble of Idlewild soars all over the map vocally, Lightbody prefers the immediate and somewhat indifferent vocal style of another friend, Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap. Indeed, much of Final Straw feels like a middle ground between these two bands, if not for the violins, xylophones, and percussion Lee layers into the mix. Thanks to extra ornamentation, "Gleaming Auction" steps into the swirling realm of Rollerskate Skinny, as wobbly dynamics add interest to punishing guitars. If one gets the sense that Lightbody is shuffling through influences, ranging from all of the above-mentioned bands to Radiohead, Coldplay ("Somewhere a Clock Is Ticking" seems to be a more rocking cousin to Coldplay's "Clocks"), and even Pink Floyd (on the unmistakably Dark Side of the Moon-influenced "Same"), his mastery of mood and adherence to harmonies make for a consistently coherent and compelling 40 minutes. Highlights include the throbbing cacophony that is "Wow" and "Spitting Games," which seems like a cascading Wall of Sound feedback-free descendant of My Bloody Valentine. Final Straw is another strong slab of emotion and invigorating energy from a solid band that mixes its influences into an always heady sonic libation.
Final Straw Review
by Tim DiGravina