Following up their most successful album to date (2006's Eyes Open) was never going to be an easy feat for Snow Patrol. On one hand, they're under pressure to deliver an album that won't alienate their newly-acquired colossal fanbase; on the other, perhaps there's a part of them that wants to win over the crowd who've derided their output as watery indie-rock tosh. Gary Lightbody and co. may not have completely achieved the latter with A Hundred Million Suns - but there are indubitably moments here that will perhaps surprise the naysayers.
Jacknife Lee returns on production duties - a man the band claim they 'couldn't have done without' in the sleeve notes - and the Dublin man lends his anthem-emphasising nuances expertly to the more predictable tracks, like the formulaic Crack the Shutters, Please Just Take These Photos from My Hands and Disaster Buttons. Snow Patrol have always floundered in their quest for adding real grit to their songs, and the worst ones here are sound examples.
It's when a degree of feistiness is added to their drab formula - like the frisky guitar riff of Take Back the City, or the whizzing strings and heavy bassline of moody acoustic number Lifeboats - that proceedings are truly brought to life. Indeed, The Golden Floor, a celebration of eerie tones, flamenco-style guitar, backwards-looped vocals and eastern imagery, suggests a wilfulness to discard their trademark sound, as does the shifting, beguiling Engines.
True, Lightbody's lyrics are largely as mawkish as ever - even if, as he's previously said, he wrote this album about a successful relationship, rather than his usual doomed adventures in love. This doesn't embody the luminescence of a hundred million suns; but it may just herald a melting of the Snow Patrol that the public have come to know in recent years. Let's hope so.