20 years since Snow Patrol's Final Straw. The Final grasp. The Final lash. The Final attempt to argue with your parents that you can make a career in music..
From Polar Bear to Snow Patrol these Northern Irish boys had released two albums and a smattering of singles to very commercial success. The album title might have been a nod to what they thought would be their fate.
And…not much happened. It looked like it was well named. And then…
… Jo Whiley bless her little heart, and her great deal of taste, played Run. Run was well buried on the CD, coming in at track 7 and with almost 6 minutes of it, it wasn’t mixed to be a single. Somehow though Whiley’s play caught the imagination of the nation.
A few weeks later I walked into our Chaplaincy Communal area at Derryvolgie Hall in Belfast, where I was Chaplain of a Residence, and everyone was singing along to Run on the TV. When I try to tell them that this is Snow Patrol and they are from Belfast the students all say they know and aren’t they great. What just happened?
What just happened was that Snow Patrol’s Final Straw was the tinder that caught fire and sent the band into the rock n roll stratosphere. Within weeks the size of venue were increasing in size. In Belfast that means Maddens Bar to the Mandela Hall to the Ulster Hall… and very soon way beyond (remember Ward Park)
This 20th Anniversary Edition of Final Straw gives us the demos. We hear a band in flux. Whether Iain Archer stays or not (he kind of doesn’t) he is shaping the future on the brooding Run and on Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking with his voice jousting with Lightbody. You wonder why nobody saw the anthem raging community sing of Run even at the demo stage. Run’s original lyrics is a fascinating rarity.
So, the demos are so helpful to the construction. Chocolate has all the catchiest melodies in its rawest form. It is a real signpost to what Gary Lightbody had inside him songwriting wise going forward.
Speaking of forward, we get a chance to look a little bit forward too. We get to check out the confidence that a top 5 single and a top 3 album brings a band. The live songs from their live concert at Somerset House, a year and four days after Final Straw’s release, reveal a band strutting the stage, fitting snugly into the big time. That Chocolate riff. The gig going bounce of Spitting Games being driven along by the manic beat of Jonny Quinn on drums.
The loudest of welcomes fro Run and the crowd already singing every word. As the song begins Lightbody hasn’t quite the confidence yet to leave them to it but by the end everything it is different. The tinder is blazing and the fire works are pooping all over the sky.
So, twenty years on it is only right that Final Straw gets an Anniversary release. Personally I think that the follow up to Final Straw, Eyes Open, and their last album, Wildness, are their two most special records to date but Final Straw needs reassessment. Two glorious decades of albums and concerts started here and their future is all here for those who have ears to listen.