How does an indie Irish quintet go from relative obscurity in America to the national radio spotlight in a single night?
For Snow Patrol, it was easy. All they had to do was get their heartfelt single (“Chasing Cars”) on the season two finale of “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2006 and — voila! — the band had earned a devoted following of predominately young and female listeners.
With their first album following that breakthrough, “A Hundred Million Suns,” the question is whether Snow Patrol will shy away from their mainstream success or embrace it.
Their debut single, “Take Back the City,” yields no decisive answer. Though the acoustic strumming, 4/4 bass beat and “woahs” of the verse evoke power-pop at its best, the song builds to include menacing electric guitar fills and a profoundly dissonant post-chorus.
But the tune’s ambition to top the charts isn’t really in question: “Take Back the City” triumphantly concludes with not one, not two, but three consecutive choruses.
Elsewhere, whether implementing a warped, reversed vocal clip on “The Golden Floor” or an indistinct, watery warbling on “The Planets Bend Between Us,” Snow Patrol toys with the idea of innovative songwriting but ultimately offers us little more than a handful of aesthetic diversions.
The album’s biggest promise for something different comes with its 16-minute finale, “The Lightning Strike.” But anyone expecting an experimental epic will be disappointed by what is, in actuality, little more than three separate songs rolled into one.
Like the rest of “A Hundred Million Suns,” the song manages to appear wild while being fairly tame at heart — but that doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable.
Snow Patrol also plays it safe on “If There’s a Rocket, Tie Me to It” and the result is a wonderfully catchy, pulsing number that surges into an electrifying chorus with singer Gary Lightbody wailing, “a fire, a fire, it cracks and barks like primal music.”
Then there’s the sparse, down-tempo “Set Down Your Glass,” which follows an acoustic guitar riff through a deceptively sweet love story (“when your eyes meet mine I lose simple skills”) eventually building with bells and a final, cascading piano line.
The song is earnest, expansive and beautiful. In other words, it would be perfect for the life-changing, heart-wrenching climax of an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” — and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
With “A Hundred Million Suns,” Snow Patrol resists the temptation to go off the progressive deep end in favor of offering up lighter, delectable indie-pop with just enough variety to keep things interesting.
Staff writer Nick Scheidies can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.