New albums from Snow Patrol and Chvrches and the best gigs of the week 

Snow Patrol

Wildness

Polydor

Gary Lightbody, the court jester of stadium rock, wrestles with his demons and comes up grinning on Snow Patrol’s comeback album

It’s been a long, hard road for Gary Lightbody. He’s back in his day job as front man of Snow Patrol after seven years spent trying to relocate his poet’s heart amid the wreckage of drink and drug abuse, and depression.

He also suffered writer’s block, a very big deal for a man with Lightbody’s literary and lateral approach to songwriting. By his own admission, he’s also got an inbuilt self-destruct button; there’s always been a sense that when the Bangor native finally got the fame and success he craved, he couldn’t handle it or perhaps handled it with too much gusto.

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Listening to the curative and cinematic Wildness, the singer Rolling Stone magazine once called "an anxious rock god" seems reborn after therapy, acupuncture and the meditative martial art of qigong. He’s also quit LA and is living back in the only slightly less glamorous surrounds of his hometown.

What all this means is that Snow Patrol’s first album since 2011’s rather uninspiring Fallen Empires is a collection of songs both deeply personal and profoundly universal. There is much to enjoy. Soon, a moving tribute to Lightbody’s ill father, marries real emotion with the kind of expansive music that ushered the band into the mainstream in the early noughties while Heal Me and Empress, are propelled by marital drumming and strong melodies.  

The band’s forays into dance and electronic always seemed more inspired by fashion than art and thankfully there is something much more earthy and organic going on here.

The band’s forays into dance and electronic always seemed more inspired by fashion than art and thankfully there is something much more earthy and organic going on here. There’s a real sense of clear-eyed clarity and understanding (and hints of The Blue Nile) on opening track Life on Earth, while the euphoric Wild Horses hits a real groove as Jonny Quinn whacks out some superbly sparse but explosive drumming.

The band’s forays into dance and electronica always seemed more inspired by fashion than art and thankfully there is something much more earthy and organic going on here. Stripped bare piano ballad What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get sees Lightbody stretch his always impassioned vocals into an unearthly Anohni style falsetto and the jumpy A Dark Switch has the same rhythmic subtlety and, indeed, chorus of a late period Bell X1 song.

From wilderness years to Wildness

It’s honest and poetic stuff but what Snow Patrol’s comeback lacks is enough truly memorable tunes. Lightbody is seized by a new sense of urgency and his band have rediscovered their looseness and directness but it’s easier to admire than actually love this slightly flowery diary of personal recovery. Wildness doesn’t quite live up to its name. ***

Chvrches

Love is Dead

Virgin/EMI

Scottish trio decide to ride the commercial bandwagon on their hyperventilating third album

Fast-rising Scottish trio Chvrches go for broke on their third album. They’ve enlisted Ed Sheeran producer Steve Mac and Mr Midas touch himself Greg Kurstin to buff their glittering synth pop into a commercial juggernaut.

It’s likely to work. There’s an overkill of undeniably catchy songs here, even if too many of them rely on bludgeoning the listener with inanely repeated phrases and trite lyrics. Get Out has the dead-eyed ambition of Elle Goulding, while even the heft of Matt Berringer’s weary baritone paired with Lauren Mayberry’s air freshener coo on My Enemy fails to elevate the song out of the formulaic and deliver some gravitas to what is essentially a collection of lightweight and vacuum-sealed pop banalities.

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Forever and Never Say Die are both wan synth washes in search of a chorus but Martin Doherty brings some actual menace to God’s Plan, a rapidly building song of obsessive love that has Depeche Mode vintage. This is apparently the trio’s political album but there are no specifics here. Mayberry’s former knack for a cutting lyric amid the synth haze has been reduced to dial cliche vagueness while her vocals have taken on a new stridency suited to the wider global themes.

They’ve got their eyes on the stadia of the world alright and you can expect them to command one of the biggest crowds of the weekend when they play Electric Picnic later this summer. However, the wounded fatalism and forced drama makes Chvrches sound The xx for tweens. **  

Rodgers/Michalchuk/Helstrom

Thresholds & Other Crossings

Fort Evil Fruit

If you're sniffy about cassette tapes, move along now. Your loss. From Irish reel deal label Fort Evil Fruit comes a tri-nation jazz project - bass, saxophone, drums - to set souls adrift, 'round about midnight. Messrs Rodgers, Michalchuk and Helstrom sound like men who first met during a particularly bad fog, enjoying each other's company so much they just kept on wandering. Depending on their/your mood, they can growl, hiss or soothe with as much satisfaction to be mined in focusing on one instrument as putting all three together. It's over too soon, but turning the cassette over becomes habit-forming in no time. If you've made it this far, kudos - there's a download available from Fort Evil Fruit too. Harry Guerin ****

Gigs of the week

Friday, May 25

The Biggest Weekend 2018, Titanic Slipways, Belfast - Beck, Franz Ferdinand, Lykke Li, Little Dragon, First Aid Kit, Father John Misty, Underworld, and Manic Street Preachers

Life Festival (May 25 to 27); Belvedere House, Mullingar, Co Westmeath

Fatboy Slim, Jax Jones, Jeff Mills and Wiley.

Ash, HMV Records, Belfast

Demi Lovato, 3Arena, Dublin

Leftfield, Vicar Street, Dublin 

The Live Last Waltz, The Olympia Theatre, Dublin

Gaz Coombes @ The Academy, Dublin

Sylvan Esso, Tivoli Theatre, Dublin

Saturday, May 26

Sunday, May 27

Volbeat, The Olympia Theatre, Dublin

The Breeders, Vicar Street, Dublin

Monday, May 27

Father John Misty, Vicar Street, Dublin

Amanda Palmer, National Concert Hall, Dublin

Broken Social Scene, Tivoli Theatre, Dublin

Tuesday, May 28

Ezra Furman, Tivoli Theatre, Dublin

Father John Misty,  Vicar Street, Dublin

Wednesday, May 30

Thirty Seconds to Mars, 3Arena, Dublin

Father John Misty, Vicar Street, Dublin

Friday, June 1

Vantastival 2018, Drogheda, Co Louth  - Le Galaxie, The Stunning, RSAG, Loah, Marlene Enright, The Hot Sprockets

Robyn Hitchcock, The Workman's Club, Dublin

Music on TV

Friday, May 25

The Biggest Weekend, BBC Four, 7.00pm to 11.15pm

Live coverage of John Misty, Courtney Barnett, Manic Street Preachers, The Breeders, Beck and Orbital

NEW: Hip Hop Evolution, Sky Arts, 9.00pm

Agnetha, Abba and After, BBC four, 11.15pm

Saturday, May 26

Coverage of The Biggest Weekend, BBC Four, 7.00pn

Nenah Cherry, First Aid Kit, Simple Minds, Chvrches, Franz Ferdinand, Underworld

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at The Biggest Weekend, BBC Two, 10.00pm

Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks: Soundstage Presents, Sky Arts, 1.15pm

Sunday, May 27

Taylor Swift, Paloma Faith at The Biggest Weekend, BBC One, 7.30pm

Florence and The Machine at The Biggest Weekend, BBC Two, 9.00pm

Liam Gallagher at The Biggest Weekend, BBC Two, 10.00pm

Wednesday, May 30

Rolling Stone; Stories from the Edge, Sky arts, 11.15pm

Friday, June 1

Africa: A Journey into Music, BBC Four, 10.00pm

Ireland’s Top 10 albums

1 (last week) 1 (this week) Divide - Ed Sheeran (Asylum/Warner Music)

3 2 Beerbongs & Bentleys - Post Malone Republic Records (Universal Music)

4 3 The Greatest Showman Motion Picture Cast Recording (Atlantic/Warner Music)

5 4 Speak Your Mind - Anne-Marie (Asylum/Warner Music)

6 5 x - Ed Sheeran (Asylum/Warner Music)

2 6 Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino - Arctic Monkeys (Domino Recordings)

8 7 Staying At Tamara's - George Ezra (Columbia/Sony Music)

New 8 Love Yourself - Tear (Bighit Entertainment)

7 9 Flicker - Niall Horan (Capitol/Universal Music

9 10 + - Ed Sheeran (Asylum/Warner Music)

Ireland’s Top 10 singles

1 (last week) 1 (this week) One Kiss - Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa (Columbia/Warner Bros)

3 2 2002 - Anne-Marie (Asylum/Warner Music)

4 3 Nice For What – Drake (Cash Money/Republic Records)

5 4 No Tears Left To Cry - Ariana Grande (Republic Records (Universal Music)

7 5 Friends - Marshmello & Anne-Marie (Asylum/Atlantic/Warner Music)

2 6 This Is America - Childish Gambino (Columbia/Sony Music)

6 7 Better Now - Post Malone(Republic Records)

9 8 Paradise - George Ezra (Columbia/Sony Music)

10 9 Lullaby - Sigala & Paloma Faith (Ministry Of Sound/Sony Music)

8 10 Freaky Friday - Lil Dicky ft Chris Brown (BMG)

Chart courtesy of IRMA

Alan Corr @corralan