Monday, 9 December 2013

Snow Patrol 'Take Back The City'

Chart Peak: 6
'Take Back The City' was the first hit single to be released from the boy's {sic} new album A Hundred Million Suns... Their incredibly successful last album Eyes Open went 7 times platinum selling over 2.1 million copies in the UK and more than 1 million units in America
Although A Hundred Million Suns was Snow Patrol's fifth album, they were to all intents and purposes in a comparable position to the Kaiser Chiefs releasing their third album, although they'd actually sold slightly more of their previous album than the one before it. Like the Kaisers they made the Top 10 with the album's first single and couldn't manage Top 40 with any of the others (though the difference is that they've managed other hits since) which seems emblematic of the times. It also says something of 2008 that this is the one single from Now 71 that I actually bought, but as I bought it digitally I have nothing to photograph.

To some extent this track is a reshuffle of familiar Patrol motifs: the massed acoustic guitars, the high harmonies on the chorus, the tangled guitars, the quiet electronics and the off-mic outro (a direct crib from 'Spitting Games') but it's in the service of something a bit fresher, a love-letter to Gary Lightbody's hometown of Belfast. Though specific references are avoided (and the video was actually shot in London) it's evident even from the song that he wants to reclaim the city from its negative image and the fear of violence ("For every time it's been hit/Take back the city tonight"). Fittingly the song was used earlier this year as the theme to a campaign to get locals and tourists back into Belfast after the rioting over the flag at City Hall. But you don't have to be from Northern Ireland to like this - indeed I've never been - because one of the great strengths of Snow Patrol is their ability to be emotionally open even with fairly traditional rock music, in a vulnerable rather than chest-beating way. That's why you can empathise and imagine that this song is about any home town you like - even I can relate to this as a Londoner, a city that's one of the least-maligned in the world of course but one that is sometimes frustrating and has of course been attacked by terrorism over the years. I think it's the fact that it's shy of becoming a full-on anthem, the way it's written by a human with mixed feelings, that paradoxically gives it strength.

Also appearing on: Now 57, 64, 65, 66, 67, 74
Available on: A Hundred Million Suns

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