Coldplay – X&Y

ColdplayX&Y (Capitol)

While everybody was busy looking for rock’s dreaded Next Big Thing in all nooks and crannies, crowning new bands each week in dingy British clubs, it’s all too fitting that the nice guys might finish first in this instance. The band’s exponential rise to stardom thanks to A Rush of Blood to the Head, along with a well-timed celebrity marriage have placed the group on the tongue of just about every music mind in the world. And of course with that type of (over?)exposure, a bold line separates the believers and non-. Chris Martin’s claim that Coldplay wanted to follow Rush of Blood with “the greatest album of all-time” only served to fuel the fire between the two sides. So, it’s doubtful X&Y, regardless of your opinion of the band, will change your stance one way or the other. Let’s face it: you’ve all got an opinion on Coldplay, and that’s that.

Detractors, at least give the band this: they could’ve thrown together a third album of knock-off versions of “The Scientist” and gone to Home Depot for industrial rakes to pull in all the hardware come Grammy season. Instead, they’ve become insistent on changing their stigma as an above-average MOR band. Chris Martin still dabbles in that life-affirming parasympathetic lyricism, with the (cliche!) added specter of marriage, parenthood, and maturation. All of which would be nauseating if he weren’t so goddamn coy about it. His voice has continued to improve throughout the group’s career, and he’s as adept at singing in falsetto as he is in his normal register. This has become an advantage, since the band is suddenly a flagship, arena-ready guitar-rock band–possibly inspired by a tour of America’s larger amphitheaters.

“Modest” is a word now completely erased from the Coldplay vernacular, as all twelve tracks on X&Y (not including hidden track, “‘Til Kingdom Come”) surge and soar. Which makes all of the magazine covers, “Is Coldplay the Next U2?,” sadly relevant. There are comparisons to be found with U2, mainly in the album’s guitar work. But there are equal ties to Eno, The Stone Roses, The Smiths, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Doves, the Madchester scene, and (yes) Radiohead.

The most striking similarity between U2 and Coldplay is that Bono sang with urgency and captured the hearts of a generation, gaining an intimate bond with their fans. And now, with the entire planet inducting U2 into martyrdom, the music media is looking for someone to hang the hat upon. Certainly, Martin is good at pulling the urgent “let’s kiss before the world ends” shtick that made U2 so universally adored. Even moreso now that guitars are rising and falling while cymbals and massive drums surround him.

One of the immediately noticeable things about X&Y is that it carries the flag of a lot of Britain’s great artists of the last 25 years. In the current context of popular music, X&Y is surprisingly cutting-edge, adapting a braver sonic front than the band’s previous material. If it weren’t for Martin’s voice there would be no ties to your grandpa’s Coldplay. The third album is edgier, finding common ground with the recent revival of post-modern Brit rock and angular harmonies. Behind the anthemic burst of the new Coldplay for the first time appears droning synths and faux-string crescendos. Though not a predominant influence the almost haunting presence of Brian Eno lingers, as the band has veiled this album with glacial atmospherics.

Not to say that this is the be-all-end-all of contemporary music. As a matter of fact, the band falls into some familiar holes–”Swallowed In The Sea” is particularly atrocious lyrically, even compared to Martin’s typically mediocre writing. And it actually takes X&Y a couple of tracks to begin to find its pace. Not to forget, you know, this isn’t the first good guitar record, and it won’t be the last. But Coldplay continues to establish the foundation of a solid career, and the few shortcomings on X&Y hardly detract from what is an exceptional album otherwise. It’s hard to fault a band when they make a concerted effort to evolve, and Coldplay continues to get better with age. Really, X&Y sees Chris Martin finally toying with an important concept–you can’t give voice to history if you speak in a whisper.

13 thoughts on “Coldplay – X&Y”

  1. I’d love to hear this album, but not enough to go out and by it. Anyone want to send it to me for free?

    Compare U2’s first three albums – Boy, October, and War – with Coldplay’s, and what do you get? A pretty even match in many ways, I’d say. U2 really found their stride a few albums later, so lets give Coldplay some credit and the chance to fulfill Martin’s self-prophecy.

  2. “Instead, they’ve become insistent on changing their stigma as an above-average MOR band”

    I like that description.

    And I like Coldplay too, but I think the fact that people are entertaining the notion that they are “the next U2” says a lot more about U2’s recent work than it does Coldplay.

  3. so, we’re supposed to like coldplay now? i thought pitchfork told us we should hate it. i’m so confused…

    actually, what i’ve heard i’ve enjoyed. nice review. subjective and fair in trying to put them in their place among their peers and influences. i have a feeling i’ll be giving this album a fair shake and let it speak for itself. nevermind what pitchfork says.

  4. I’ve only listened to it once and I totally agree with the U2 thing. Maybe the “next Radiohead” thing can die now – which it should have in the first place because US journalists were too lazy or uninformed to make the most appropriate comparison when “Parachutes” came out. Namely, “Parachutes” completely aped “The Man Who” by Travis.

    Now, here in Canada we face another issue when dealing with “X&Y” which is that it has been packaged as a “Copy Controlled” disc. This means that it includes software designed to prevent people from copying, ripping and distributing the music on the internet. Unfortunately, it means that it will only play in very crappy version with its own software on your computer and prevent you from doing the very legal activities of making copies for personal use. So, you can’t rip it to mp3 for your portable, no “My Favourite Coldplay tracks” mix cds, and (gasp) no lovey dovey mix cds for the intended of your affection including the swoon-inducing Mr. Martin ;) This technology has been “test-marketed” here in Canada and also in Europe & Australia and will supposedly become widespread soon. You may have heard about similar technology being included with the new Velvet Revolver disc (oh, don’t call it a CD because Philips won’t allow these discs to carry the CD logo – it doesn’t do all the things a CD is supposed to do so, legally, not a CD).

    Later

  5. Seems to me the only one who has ever pulled off a “greatest” claim is Muhammed Ali. That is a term that should never be used lightly by anyone who isn’t also willing to kiss the mat. A little humility can go a long way.

  6. Well, Mac, in fairness, Chris Martin didn’t say he WAS going to make the best album of all-time, I think he was just making aware Coldplay’s desire to be as good as they possibly can be. Which I think completely 180’s the impression you get from Martin with that slight turn of phrase.

  7. Fuck that.

    Coldplay are a forgettable incarnation of Bends-era Radiohead and everything that sucked about Brit-Pop.

    Sure, Pulp and Suede were almost as pompous, but they made great records, and that’s what it comes down to.

    Chris Martin’s sub-Morrissey coo reaches for the profound but is usually just profoundly boring.

    Plus, bitching about global trade policies while making records for EMI, a gargantuan conglomerate, is meatheaded hypocrisy worthy of Bono.

    I guess Coldplay is the next U2 after all.

  8. i guess i can see both sides of this story. if you really sit down and listen to coldplays’ lyrics, they are soooo banal it’s almost hilarious. BUT, i can’t help but enjoy a few of the songs on this album for their melodies and production. listen to “white shadows”, “square one”, “talk”, “speed of sound” and “the hardest part” and you’ll hear what i mean. this album deserves a B or a C because it’s not completely horrible. i think chris martin and co. always wanted to be embraced by the mainstream pop audience, so this isn’t any skin off of their back. hey, they’re better than train, hoobastank and all that other crap that’s coming out today. btw, check out http://www.youhavebadtasteinmusic.com for some vicarious fun.

  9. hi. longtime listener, first time caller…

    very good review. I agree paul’s points on Martin’s lyrics and the production/melodies on X&Y, though i’m a bit more sympathetic with regards to the lyrics. fatherhood can somtimes adjust your perspective. the production values are top-shelf. “square one” has just the right amount Gilmore/Waters/Wright influence to get shit moving in the right direction and the rest seems to fall into place…

    over a month of frequent listening later and my toes are still tappin’…

  10. I love the reviews on this site. Am going to keep coming here. Yes I like Coldplay but I don’t think they are anything spectacular as of yet. Am also yet to listen to any song on “X&Y”.

  11. My guess is after this testicular accident known to coo flatheads for his “professionalism” of music direction is in proportion to my tapering strap : no improvement by the suburban guage. Paul we’re we supposed to meet at the Lounge saturday?

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