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Coldplay Mails in X&Y

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Coldplay’s first album was, no doubt, the culmination of years of built up material that Chris Martin couldn’t wait to put down on tape for the world to hear. After the success of Parachutes, the British four-piece avoided the sophomore slump with a fantastic second album that still showcased the sweeping, arena rock melodies and generous pop hooks that made Parachutes so enjoyable. It seemed like the natural progression from Parachutes. While the music was bigger on A Rush of Blood to the Head, it retained its moody vibe thanks to Martin’s melancholy lyrics about love and loss. Since then, Martin has married a movie star, spawned an Apple, and led a very public life that stands in stark contrast to the desolation that his music often speaks to.

The pressure riding on Coldplay to follow up with a great third album was palpable, especially considering record company EMI’s stock woes as a result of delays in releasing the album. While Chris Martin bemoans the horrors of stockholders and share prices, he clearly prefers his band to be the best in the world, and you can’t be the best without having a company’s fortunes riding on your success. With the release of the band’s third LP, X&Y, Coldplay has become safe, corporate rock—destined to put out an album once every couple of years, with an identifiable, branded sound that their record company can take to the bank.

So how is X&Y? For starters, the group’s sound has not evolved from A Rush of Blood to the Head (not necessarily a bad thing), and Chris Martin’s cheeseball lyrics have devolved album over album. Martin’s lyrics are a litany of bad clichés and high school metaphors. Every song seems to be bogged down with tedious ramblings like:

When you try your best but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep

or

climb up, up in the trees
every chance that you get
is a chance you seize

or

You’ll go backwards
but then
you’ll go forwards
and then
you’ll go backwards
again
you’ll go forwards

Now, no one was ever going to accuse Chris Martin of being a one man Lennon and McCartney on the first 2 albums, but the lyrics always felt genuine and inspired. The lyrics on X&Y sound like they were written in between Apple’s midnight and 2 o’clock feedings. Martin touches on politics on “Twisted Logic”—“Created… then drilled and invaded/If somebody made it/Someone will mess it up,” but mostly sticks to writing personal songs.

As for the music, it’s entirely listenable pop rock with enough hooks and grabs to keep you listening. Specifically, “Speed of Sound”, “Talk” and “Low” provide great melodies to help drown out Martin’s self-important musings. The best song on the disc, though, isn’t even listed on the inlay card—“’Til Kingdom Come”, a song reportedly written for Johnny Cash before the Man in Black passed away in 2003. It shows what Coldplay is capable of when they aren’t so consumed with writing “Coldplay” songs.

Chris Martin has said in more than one interview how important it is for Coldplay to become as good as U2. If he means commercial success, Coldplay is certainly positioning itself well as a group able to compose AOR friendly tunes destined to keep their discs flying off the shelves. If he means musically, Coldplay will need to do a much better job on their next album. Whether you liked the different iterations that U2 underwent during their career or not, there is no denying that the group took chances. On X&Y, the group shows no signs of deviating from a script that they know sells records.

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About Matt Freelove

  • Liam Gallagher

    I respect Coldplay and enjoyed A Rush of Blood…, but their latest effort has been a real dissapointment.

  • http://www.thebmrant.com Matt

    I agree with you, umm…Liam. Thanks for commenting.

  • duke of the stratosphere

    It’s hard to fully appreciate an album only one week into listening to it but so far X & Y hasn’t pleased my ears as much as I had hoped. There are some few marvellous tunes such as Fix You, Talk, A Message and Speed of Sound. And though the tune Swallowed in the Sea may contain the most dire and clumsy opening lyrics ever, it’s a ridicilously memorable tune. However, when Coldplay try to be like Radiohead or Pink Floyd on grand songs like title track and closing track, they fall pretty flat. Who knows I might change my mind. Coldplay’s music was all about warmth, but here they’re applying the name to their music.

  • http://duckmafia.blogspot.com Quack Corleone

    I can stomach ‘A Cold Rush…’ and even like a few Coldplay tunes if I’m in the right Romantic (or is it Cheesy?) mood. But ‘X & Y’, man, oh man!

    You nailed the banality of the lyrics, but it’s the repetitiveness of the music that gets to me. I struggle to listen the whole album through. Whereas ‘A Cold Rush…’ was pleasant, ‘X & Y’ is plodding. And I get the strange feeling that about three quarters of it is the same guitar noise played over and over, with some barely discernible, simplistic piano hook sometimes in the background.

    Maybe it’ll get better the more I listen to it, but, the problem is, I just don’t want to.

  • http://www.thebmrant.com Matt

    Quack–I agree–the music is very samey. Its one thiing to have a distinct guitar sound, its another to just sound exactly like yourself through 12 songs.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/djradiohead DJRadiohead

    I fucking loved “AROBTTH” and I want to like “X&Y.”It’s just not there. The songs are lacking. The album is so unadventurous and similar- the only way to get away with something like that is to have first-rate songs. “X&Y” does not.

  • The Theory

    I haven’t found any Coldplay to be at all interesting, so apperantly this new one is more of the same.

    Over-rated.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    Theory, im with you on that one. i WANT to like them, cause they seem like nice fellas and all, but it just sounds like hurt-by-numbers. The Bends-lite or somethin. but what the hell does it matter, they’re gettin on quite alright without The Duke’s love.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/djradiohead DJRadiohead

    But without the Duke’s love they might get called “motherf*ckers” or “c*nts” (I want to see how self-referential I can possibly be in one night).

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    haha!! nah, they’re too nice a buncha f**kers far as i can tell.

  • http://www.thebmrant.com Matt

    I don’t know. Chris Martin is starting to get a tick full of himself. Consider:

    He wants Coldplay to be “better” than Mozart.

    He writes an equal sign on his hand every morning to remind himself of the Fair Trade issue. If he really gave a shit about Fair Trade, he’d remember every morning when he got up. He’s a grandstander. The equal sign is for the world to think what a deep quasi-philanthropist he is.

    Yawn.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    matt, this is true, but good intentions maybe, nonetheless. an amybe all the more folks know about, say, makepovertyhistory.org an stuff on account of his admitedly fairly full-of-it proclomations.

    an with regards the mozart thing, i want MY music to be better than mozart. wantin it to be the case is fairly ok, i think. shit, everybody wants whatever they do to be better than everything else. if he said it WAS better than mozart, then i’d have to squint a bit.

    but what i mean with the niceness is maybe just that he’s hasent turned into a thug yet, and seems fairly coy about it all. a couple weeks ago he was on radio 1 saying about he was looking forward to a low-key show they were doing, since he’s actually not sure if anyone really likes them, or if its just a sort of fashion thing.

    i still can’t be bothered with the music, mind

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    my spelling on these comments is totally shocking.

  • http://www.thebmrant.com Matt

    I guess I am just naturally cynical about artists who wear it on their sleeves, or hands, so much. The notion of Free Trade can be argued incessantly–probably with more vitriolic pizzaz than you and I can muster in the music section of Blogcritics. I think its great that he wants to champion the cause, but saying that he writes “=” on his hand every morning borders on self-parody.

    I think wanting to be better than Mozart is something he should keep to himself. It comes off as overly fucking smug, at least to me.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    and Matt, there’s always the thing about how rich these folks are whilst they’re telling us about poverty. buit thats another story.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/djradiohead DJRadiohead

    Agreed, Duke. I thought it was a little undemocratic of Bono to stop asking for donations and start confiscating $150 per ticket so he can feed Africa. He could have just asked (and lowered those prices a few bucks!).

  • http://www.thebmrant.com Matt

    Exactly. I need a bloody telescope to see Coldplay from my $40 LAWN tickets at some shitty outdoor venue. Bollocks!

  • Soup

    The only smarmy arrogance bristling around here is the reviewer. So you all know, there are millions of fans out there who find their newest offering a step forward. I see the talent in a band who’s made it so big, so fast. Coping with the pressures of turning folksy small guitar campfire concerts into the stadium offerings they have now grown into is colossal. Whether you agree, care, or believe it or not, they’ve done this with remarkable success. Just follow their headlining tour for proof.

    You talk about Martin’s arrogance, but fail to mention his real world complexity of genuine humility: record after record, he worries the critics will “hate it.” That some do, is no surprise or worry to the rest of us.

    Yawn.

  • Pann

    X&Y seem much dumber and cheesier than the other two albums. Square One tries to catch your attention with a rocky guitar line thats repeated through out the song. But fails when it gets to boring. “What if” is just plain and simple bad music. “White Shadows” isnt too bad, but feels very awkward for some reason, i think the tried to make this song more than it should be.”Fix you” is one of the best coldplay songs to date, its a very climatic song with beautiful lyrics about someone who has no where to turn. “talk”,sounds like pure crap. “X&y” is a one of the best songs on the album, it has a great chorus line.”Speed of sound” is what this CD should have sounded like all the way through, it didnt get too fancy. “Message” isnt bad, but it certanly isnt good. “Low” is another of my favorie songs on the album, but again gets a little too fancy. “Hardest Part” is ok, but its not something i want to listen too. “Swallowed in the Sea” is a great song and even has good lyrics, its one of the highlights of the CD. “Twisted Logic” is the worst song out of all of the coldplay library. It makes me want to throw up when i hear it. ” Till kingdom come” is again, what this CD should have sounded like all along. Most of these songs are good!But the way they are played, along with some bad lyrics makes the Cd fall apart. There is still some here to listen too, but in my opinion, not enough.

  • http://www.thebmrant.com Matt

    Soup–I get the feeling that if Coldplay put out an album of the band members farting, you’d see it as high art.

    I am a Coldplay fan, but I am able to put my rose colored glasses down long enough to see that this album is clap trap compared to Parachutes or even AROBTTH.