If anything, Kodaline sound even bigger: vocalist Steve Garrigan sounds on the edge of a good cry, lyrical cliches strain for profundity (“You’ve gotta be tough if you wanna survive”) and producer Jacknife Lee has put them in an even larger wind tunnel than before. Human Again and Play the Game shift gear slightly, going for INXS/Bon Jovi-style brooding big rock. Still, if you’re after epic but slightly teary singalongs that tell you that you can’t hide this feeling, they are undoubtedly your men. There’s genuine emotion in the lovely, piano-led Everything Works Out in the End, which – like Snow Patrol’s Run – is the sort of song to give a troubled soul something to cling to.
With every timid opening second, in steps a chorus to make actual giants look timid in comparison. Not a single song passes without one final, bellowed out “woah-oooh-oooh,” the sound of rowdy football fans gone soft.
On ‘Unclear’, they master the balance between smart songwriting and unashamedly huge ambitions. Nothing on their debut gave hints of this exercise in restraint, which sadly only seems to strike the band in fleeting moments. Otherwise, it’s back to default mode. ‘Ready’ is a short-of-breath stomper from the opening second - all that’s missing is a guest guitar solo from Brian May. ‘Autopilot’ and ‘Better’ come close to hitting the right formula, but they end up simmering out into nothingness, the former’s title being sadly prophetic. That’s without mentioning ‘Play The Game’, a surefire add-on that shuns the band’s drippy but fairly decent staples for a sudden moment of sleaze rock, like if Gene Simmons had an acid flashback. It sounds criminally dated.
They’re close to earning their arena status. There are moments on ‘Coming Up For Air’ that lay claim to a genuine force, the kind who’ve earned their Chris Martin-endorsed stripes. They’re yet to truly claim their own territory, though, and any attempts to reinvent the wheel fall flat with an almighty thud.