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Miscellaneous - Divorce and Snow Patrol

  by Sarah Rowland

published: 23 / 11 / 2007

Miscellaneous - Divorce and Snow Patrol


In the latest in our 'Soundtrack to Our Lives' series, in which our writers write about the personal impact of music in their lives, Sarah Johnston tells of listening to Snow Patrol at the time of her parents' seperation and marriage break-up

My parents' divorce came through last month. They have been separated for over two years so really it doesn't change anything that hadn't already been changed. It was just a document making it official. Still, it was a bit strange all the same. When my mam phoned to let me know, it wasn't a shock or a surprise. After all I've known it was coming for most of the separation. It was just, well, all very final. Suddenly I have found Snow Patrol the staple of my music intake. This isn't a coincidence; 'Final Straw' was the album I listened to repeatedly two years ago after I travelled home the day my parents broke the news to my younger siblings. I was studying journalism at Carlisle and already knew my dad would soon be moving out of our home in Newcastle. Being the oldest of three children by twelve years, I was fully aware things weren't working out between our parents ; they had both talked to me about it a lot in the months leading up to that journey home. I can't actually remember how I got hold of 'Final Straw' or who it was that introduced me to Snow Patrol, but I remember clearly getting to know the album on the many journeys between uni and home that I would make over the coming months. The album is the band’s third and had been released a couple of years before in 2003. I recognised one song, 'Spitting Games', as a single they had released, but when I had first heard it the song hadn't really made an impact. At the time it was released I was getting in to the American rock bands which had somehow managed to pass me by earlier in life (like Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers). At that time Snow Patrol didn't strike a chord with me at all, but suddenly, sat there on a two carriage train, looking out over dusty fields as the sun started to set, 'Final Straw' was exactly what I wanted to hear. The first track, 'How to be Dead', sets the tone of the album. Lead singer, Gary Lightbody, has a caramel voice that gives every song a distinct bittersweet quality. A lot of the band's songs are about relationships and at the time it was bizarrely comforting to listen to songs about people arguing and breaking up. I suppose in a strange way it gave me perspective and stopped me dwelling on the separation. In fact I rarely thought about what the separation meant or how it would affect things; I only thought about how we were all dealing with it at that precise moment. I thought a lot about how it had been before and at the time I don’t think it was the separation making me feel sad. I don’t think it had really sunk in at that point. The thing that was most upsetting was that my little brother and sister might not remember all the years before that point when we had done so many things as a family and my parents had been very happy together. I like every track on the album, but one of my favourites is ‘Wow’. One of the more upbeat tracks, it has a catchy guitar riff and a line in the chorus that repeats "it’s all going to change" - I don’t have to explain the relevance there. Other songs, such as ‘Gleaming Auction’ and ’Spitting Games’, reminded me a lot of being at school and because I was already doing a lot of reminiscing it was a nice retreat to think back to long days at school and old friends that I hadn’t seen for a while. ’Chocolate’ begins to take the album towards a more poppy but mellow direction with a lot of piano and xylophone. The songs become more ballad like and strings add more depth to the gentle lyrics. The energy behind Snow Patrol is what I like most about the band. Last year they released their fourth album, 'Eyes Open', and although it is not largely different from 'Final Straw' it continues from where the previous album left off and hints at a few new ideas bubbling under the surface. As Lightbody has such a distinctive voice - his subtle Irish vowels echo around the lyrics - when I listen to the new album it is also laced with memories of travelling back home to spend time with each of my parents after the separation. But now 'Eyes Open' has taken on a new dimension because my sister, who is about to turn twelve, has started to listen to the album and Snow Patrol has become the first band we have in common. When I think back to when I first heard the band she seemed so young, yet here we are, a mere two years later and she has started school at my old comprehensive, developing her own taste in music. In the summer I went back home for a barbecue. My parents actually get on very well and have managed to salvage a friendship from their marriage, so we were all together this day, in the back garden on one of the rare sunny moments of this year’s summer. I had just been given Snow Patrol’s second album, 'When its all Over We Still Have to Clear Up', so I stuck it on in the background. It has a much lighter feel than the later albums and is slightly more guitar based, but I was amazed when my sister told me she loved the band and we were able to take great pleasure in secretly knocking up the volume a notch every time one of my parents turned it down. So once again I have found myself listening constantly to Snow Patrol - now I have all of the albums to choose from - and although I gravitated back to this music because it was a crutch at the beginning of the separation, I realise my connection to the band’s music has evolved. I now think about my sister when I hear this band and I have started to realise how much older both her and my brother seem since the day I sat staring out of the train window on my way back home. The divorce may seem final but it has also brought with it a feeling of relief. I can now see that I needn’t have worried about how my brother and sister would remember us as a family because we still are a family and a close one at that. It was nice to ring my mam last week and hear my dad in the background helping put up the Christmas tree. This time around listening to Snow Patrol has felt very different. I have to say I was surprised to find that music could transform into something else after putting such a big part of my past into those select few songs. One day I’ll ask my sister what the band means to her and what she associates the songs with. Who knows, it might be family days spent burning sausages around the barbecue.

Picture Gallery:-
Miscellaneous - Divorce and Snow Patrol

Miscellaneous - Divorce and Snow Patrol

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