1. Downhill From Here
2. Starfighter Pilot
3. Last Shot Ringing In My Ears
4. Absolute Gravity
5. Get Balsamic Vinegar… Quick You Fool
8. Little Hide
9. Make Up
10. Velocity Girl
11. Days Without Paracetamol
12. Fifteen Minutes Old
13. Favourite Friend
14. One Hundred Things You Should Have Done In Bed
15. Sticky Teenage Twin
16. Limited Edition
18. My Last Girlfriend
20. I Could Stay Away Forever
21. When You’re Right You’re Right (Darth Vader Bringing In His Washing Mix)
22. Raze The City
23. Riot, Please
24. Holy Cow
Snow Patrol‘s official debut, Songs for Polarbears, refers to their original name “Polar Bears”, of which the soundbite in Little Hide is a reminder. The Northern Irish/Scottish rock formation blends indie rock, pop, and free rock together to a marketable, pleasant sound that is alternative enough to be different, and mainstream enough to be picked up by radio. “Polar Bears” is the first album but many will be following if this band keeps developing itself along this way.
Downhill From Here
The introduction to “Polar Bears” shows the intentions of this band. Energetic powerpop/rock & roll. The opener has heavy guitars and distortion effects that give it a slight industrial edge, creating a wall of sound. Where this song my show the band’s intention it doesn’t show their best side.
Starfighter Pilot is a clever song. Snow Patrol uses effects and melody in a clever dynamic. At times it might be a little repetitive, but it also has a weird kind of catchiness surrounding itself.
Last Shot Ringing In My Ears
On this third song, we finally get to hear a little more focus on the vocals and melodic quality of the band. At times Ringing in my Ears sounds a bit rushed, but in a way that also contributes to the song, as it creates a drive, a forward motion for this song.
The, at times, cross-over song Absolute Gravity reminds me of a more mainstream/mellow Incubus at times. Personally I don’t feel it suits the band very much, but it’s definitely a decent song.
Get Balsamic Vinegar… Quick You Fool
Get Balsamic Vinegar is definitely an interesting song, and the drums are worth mentioning. But overall this song isn’t really working. Might have been a good idea, but the end product doesn’t do justice to the band’s potential.
The gentler Mahogany gives you more insight to this band’s songwriting capabilities. The quality of the music gets a chance to crawl out from under the distortion, effects, and heavy guitars. The mostly acoustic, melodic ballad-like Mahogany is a bright light on this darker album.
Like many other bands, Snow Patrol dedicates a song to the world’s most famous metropolis. And I have to admit that the song is one of my favorites on the album. It has some good contrasts between light & dark, loud and quieter, varies in tempo well and creates a nice atmosphere. The effects and accents add to the song instead of blocking it from coming to full bloom. Snow Patrol shows why they are considered a promise.
The lead single for “Polar Bears”. A recording that refers to why they had to change their name is implemented in the song. Little Hide has an industrial feel, and though I didn’t think it was really working for Snow Patrol earlier on the album, it actually works really well on this song. I don’t know if I had picked it as a radio single, but it has a good groove which gives it single possibilities.
Make Up is another great powerpop/rock & roll song. It is extremely catchy and shows Snow Patrol’s comfort zone, with catchy melody, tight guitars & drums and clear vocals. This should definitely be a radio single. I know I would request it on the radio.
Although Velocity Girl takes a long time to get going, it actually isn’t a bad song. It isn’t one of the album’s highlights, and with a little more creativity this song could’ve been so much more, but it is not a bad song at all. It shows promise, it just could use a little more here and there.
Days Without Paracetamol
On Days Without Paracetamol this band shows that the darker, alternative mood is something they can express really well too. Once again I feel like mentioning the drums. That’s what ties this whole song together.
Fifteen Minutes Old
The first time I listened to this song I felt it had a lot of potential, but the more careful I listen to it, the less I can get into it. I’m afraid to say that this song is only mediocre for Snow Patrol’s standards. Many bands might kill to come up with a song like this, but for this band, they can just do better.
This is one of my favorites again. It’s full of effects and might sound a little repetitive to some people, but to me, it’s just really catchy, and alternative. I’d nominate it as another radio single candidate.
One Hundred Things You Should Have Done In Bed
Catchy, that it is for sure. A little unconventional? Yes, that too. All in all, it’s an excellent song where this band comes together as a whole brilliantly. Might be slightly long for a single, but why not? And it features the bonus track Market Place but we talk about that later.
Sticky Teenage Twin
Maybe not their most creative/original song, but Sticky Teenage Twin is just so much fun to listen to. Distortion, full-speed and passionate energy. It gets my feet off the floor and it just is extremely catchy.
Limited Edition is obviously a demo recording, but I like that Snow Patrol isn’t afraid of putting something like that on their album. It shows the intimacy and care that goes into building a song. Besides, it just sounds like a pretty little song.
JJ is the shortest song on the album, with 1m47. But in that short time, this song actually impresses me with nice vocal harmonies and a simple guitar melody. Once upon a time there was this band called the Beatles who showed us that a song doesn’t need to be complicated to be great. That concept is still valid.
My Last Girlfriend
The Pixies-like My Last Girlfriend with its loud/quiet contrast is quite interesting. Took me a couple listens to fully appreciate it, but it actually is one of the better songs on this versatile debut album.
There is a free, jazzy-like rhythm to T.M.T. that works surprisingly well. It gives you that really artistic kind of feel and though the lyrics are somewhat graphic at times, this shows an interesting contrast in itself. There’s a really dark edge to this song, but with the light, free rhythm it has something special.
I Could Stay Away Forever
I think many people will like this song very much, but personally I could never get into it very much. The only thing I thought was worth mentioning is the strength of Gary Lightbody’s vocals. That is basically what carries this song, in my opinion.
When You’re Right, You’re Right (Darth Vader Brings His Washing Mix)
Interesting song title, I’ll give it that. But the song itself is one of the worst on the album. It just doesn’t connect to anything and lacks energy, passion and conviction. I applaud the band for trying, but I hope they learn from this experience.
Raze The City
Raze The City shows potential, but to really shine it just needs a lot more work. The basics are great, but this track needs to be worked out further and then it could develop into one of the band’s finest songs, I believe.
Another demo-like recording, so don’t pay too much attention to the quality of the recording or production, just listen to the song. The song itself falls in the category of ‘it doesn’t need to be complicated to be great’. And on these quieter tracks, Lightbody’s vocals just get so much more focus, which really adds to the song.
Holy Cow is another full-blown rocker on full-speed. And yes, they finally nailed it. One of the band’s finer true rockers.
The intimate bonus song, Marketplace, is another little gem that deserves to be heard. The acoustic guitar sets a good mood for this song and the echoing vocals create a kind of mystique that fits the song well. Very nice way to end this record.
Snow Patrol debuts with “Polar Bears”, which is a versatile album on which the band is searching for their own sound and comfort zone. It is immediately obvious this band has a lot of talent and potential, but needs to develop themselves further. Some songs on the album just don’t work for them, but some other songs show that this band can become huge all around the world. I will be looking forward to what they come up with next, and hopefully they have come together as a band more and found their own sound, so that everyone can see the obvious musical talent this band holds inside them.