Debut records from already-established musicians are, almost always, a bit tense. After however many years of being tied to one group or another, the decision to split is a bold and courageous one. Few can say they did not give their best efforts in their decision to pursue the singular voice. The Strange Order of Things marks a move toward the isolation of solo work for Snow Patrol’s Nathan Connolly. They are still together, but with time on his hands and ideas of his own, lead guitarist Connolly has struck through with a, well, a guitar-led album. What did you expect? The Strange Order of Things is a confident collection which depends on those instrumental pieces.
One of many albums to mention atrophy and waste, it seems the seasoned musician cabal worries of rot and their end being in sight. Ghost cements this fear with some nice riffs and betrayal in flashbacks. Memory does not serve as well as it should and Connolly presents this with an earnestness, torn through by his shimmering, ever-building instrumentals. Heart of Stone makes the Connolly charm clear. Frequently drawing on his guitar riffs and drowning himself out in those moments he feels particularly moved or convinced by an instrumental piece. His percussion pulls steady beats for him to rise from. Darker themes and space between strums on We is another flicker of this creative burst for Connolly.
Open bursts of brass toward the end of This Is All That I Don’t Feel perk up and push through into the heavier, grunge tinge of The Last Time. Lamenting love lost and frequently so, The Strange Order of Things has a nice set of tracks bursting throughout. He detailed his hobby-turned-career as a choice between music or pub quiz champion. Connolly has paid back his faith in himself and avoided the route of Scrabble and dominos. Instead, he is responsible for a well-placed rock record which feels floaty in places but nicely rounded. A man who knows his instruments and where to use them. A constantly shifting experience, Waves provides a bit of a dogged shift in tone but a necessary one. It is where Connolly needs to take the album. He has a route in mind, getting there is somewhat bumpy.
Where Fires may be ready for the sunshine, it marks a drop-off for The Strange Order of Things. Connolly is a better guitarist than he is lead vocalist, although he is serviceable at the latter. He blows himself out of the water with a collection of memorable musical terrors. He has something special on this record though, something buried deep and in a space which presents truth and honesty to his craft. His break away from the band work he has been so well-served by is a successful one. Connolly has plunged deep into the dangerous depths of solo recording and, off the back of this record, it is clear he can hold his head above water with the rest of them. Whether that is to prove it to himself or the listener is unclear. What is clear is The Strange Order of Things is a solid start for the Snow Patrol staple.