It's a common feature of many band-fan relationships that those on the receiving end of the speakers and headphones often find the most to cherish in one particular corner of the artists' sound. So there are those who reckon the Smashing Pumpkins' tender moments were always superior to their bluster; that Springsteen is best by himself; that Beck's classic work is 'Sea Change' and that Snow Patrol excel when they give obvious the cold shoulder.

The quintet proved their way with a rousing rock anthem (TM) on 2003's surprise success 'Final Straw', but as far back as 2001's 'When It's All Over We Still Have to Clear Up' frontman Gary Lightbody had written 'An Olive Grove Facing the Sea', the band's unusual and yet-to-be bettered ballad.

Both styles are catered for on 'Eyes Open', an album that fits perfectly together and can also sound like two different bands squaring up to each other in a studio. And depending on mood or taste, you could be egging on one or the other. The likes of 'You're All I Have', 'Open Your Eyes', epic melodrama 'Chasing Cars' and others are crowd-pleasers, but Snow Patrol burn brightest when they don't have the big chorus on their minds.

And so the strongest songs here are the ones that won't soundtrack countless sports programmes, have people jumping up and down at festivals or feature at the upper end of the singles charts. They're the ones where Lightbody sounds at his most desperate and you listen to at your most isolated. 'Shut Your Eyes' and the devastating centrepiece of 'You Could Be Happy', 'The Last Time' and the Martha Wainwright duet 'Set the Fire to the Third Bar' are all perfect combinations of angst and atmospherics which show there is a classic, classic album waiting to get out of Lightbody and his cohorts.

As a lyricist Lightbody has truly found his own place - heartbreak pile-ups, happiness turning on its heels and pieces that can never fit back together. When he sings, "Please just save me from the darkness" on 'Make This Go on Forever' the immediate mental response is 'not yet'. And it's the ability to fire that kind of selfishness in listeners that promises even better - and hopefully sadder! - for the future.

In the meantime, in between all these crises of the heart Lightbody should take solace from the old wallflower's mantra that there's someone for everyone and two for most. As for his fans, there's something for every one of them here and way, way more than two for most.

Harry Guerin