Lost in Space

CD Review: X&Y (EMI) by Coldplay

Hot to trot: Coldplay shifted from the drizzly acoustic balladeering of debut Parachutes to chest-beating rock behemoths with their second album, A Rush of Blood To The Head.  Okay, that's an exaggeration. But they've conquered the civilized world, so this eagerly awaited record should send them stratospheric.

In the name of Love Forget Coldplay's oft-cited Radiohead-lite sound; their third album clearly tips its musical cap to U2.  Check out the bobbing bass-lines, dancey drums,  honking, Edge-emulating guitar lines and Bono-like lyrical soul searching – and that's just on the ambitious opening track, Square One.  Someone's obviously had Achtung Baby on heavy rotation...

Can this possibly work? Let's face it, the two bands now inhabit the same rarefied atmosphere.  But are Coldplay suffering a tune drought? After all, there’s nothing here as immediate as The Scientist, In My Place or Yellow; those are comparatively simple pleasures.  As are their arrangements: the unplugged sound of Parachutes and moments of strum-along appeal on A Rush of Blood... have been resoundingly overdubbed by a layered, Wall of Sound-style production avalanche. Fantastic lead single Speed of Sound is one of few examples where the formula really comes together. Otherwise, melodies get swamped; some songs simply refuse to take off,  despite the overly fussy, whistles-and-bells sonic template designed for Hollywood Bowls and enormo-dromes. X&Y is still a solid enough set, though it sounds more like cynical consolidation than anything inspiring.  And, as another mournful piano plodder swells amid riding cymbals, falsetto crooning and echoey guitar clang, there's more than a sneaking suspicion that the band is stuck in a mid-tempo rut.

Hot list or cold shoulder? Time will tell whether X&Y's slow-burn rewards persistent listeners with more elusive charms. Whatever the weather, this bundle of stadium-friendly business should seal Coldplay’s status as a worldwide arena-playing phenomenon.  

Critical Quibbling

“Confident, bold, ambitious, bunged with singles and impossible to contain, ‘X&Y’ reinforces Coldplay as the band of their time” —The NME

“Martin has talked about how hard he worked on this album, and it shows: Nothing on it sounds easy” – Rolling Stone

-- Published by In Residence, 2005


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