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Review: Coldplay – X&Y

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by David Schultz

Since their debut in 2000, Coldplay has created an interesting little musical niche for themselves. Without alienating the mainstream MTV/Clear Channel audience, they have earned a modicum of rock credibility and can apocryphally be considered rockers in the same vein as Pink Floyd. Rather than turn to the Dark Side though, Coldplay has other goals. Making no secret of their desire to be bigger than U2, the English quartet has taken a curious approach towards surpassing their Irish superiors. On their first two albums, Parachutes and A Rush Of Blood To The Head, Coldplay established a distinct sound centered around Chris Martin’s simple piano melodies and wispy ethereal lyrics whose earnest sincerity rescued them from the realm of whiney drivel.

The star of this show is clearly Chris Martin, who you may have heard is married to a famous actress and named his baby girl after a popular snacking fruit. (I tell you this as I fear the Martin-Paltrows may not be receiving enough publicity, which would surely be troubling). While Martin doesn’t exhibit the technical proficiency of Billy Preston or Steve Winwood, this is not necessarily a negative within the context of Coldplay’s repertoire. One need listen no further than the 2002 hit “Clocks” to grasp that the beauty of Coldplay’s songs comes from their simplicity. Unfortunately, for their third album, Coldplay strays too far from the formula that works for them.

On X&Y, the songs are cryptically designated into two groups, the X’s and the Y’s in what appears to be an archaic reference to the sides of an LP. A better designation should have been to mark as X’s those spots that bear Coldplay’s distinct originality and the Y’s for those that make you wonder why this sounds like an ill-conceived U2 imitation.

Fans looking for the bands mix of pleasant melodies with orchestral Beatle-ish arrangements that rely more on Martin’s music than his voice will not be disappointed. The signature keyboards on the first single, “Speed Of Sound”, as well as “X&Y”, “Swallowed By The Sea” and “Talk” make them worthy additions to the Coldplay catalogue. However, when Jonny Buckland attempts the same trick on lead guitar, the songs suffer. On “White Shadows” and “Square One,” Buckland attempts to mimic Martin on guitar with little success. The same piercing guitar sound that works for U2 fails for Coldplay because the band simply lacks an edge. (Pun completely intended).

The dirgelike “Kingdom Come” is a valiant effort to close the album out on a solemn note, a la All You Can’t Leave Behind‘s Grace, however Martin does not possess the vocal range to give the song the warmth and emotion it needs.

Even though X & Y contains one too many songs that sound like U2 B-sides, (e.g. “Twisting Logic,” “Low”), it would be grossly unfair to characterize the album as a pale imitation of U2. The songs that play to Coldplay’s strengths are quite enjoyable and show that Coldplay has the potential to live up to their hype. Keep in mind though, this is not an album whose charms are immediately apparent. Perhaps Martin’s hypnotic keyboards require time to burrow into the subconscious before they can truly be appreciated. Like a wine that opens up when its had a chance to breathe, it is with repeated listens that the album’s subtleties are revealed. Unless Chris Martin erases world hunger, Coldplay has little chance of becoming the next U2 and should stop creating music in that mold. However, if they stick to the music that is uniquely theirs, there is a good chance that come 2015, some young band with a lead keyboardist married to Mary Kate or Ashley Olsen may proclaim that they want to be the next Coldplay.

Edit: BMcK

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About JD

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    it would be grossly unfair to characterize the album as a pale imitation of U2.

    It would, however, be fair to characterize the entire band as a pale imitation of U2. They’re only as “important” as the U2 of the past 10 years – and they can’t even begin to wish to be a “pale imitation” of what U2 was in the 80s. What Coldplay seems to ignore is that they have hit their peak – it will all be steadily and probably rapidly downhill from here (thankfully.)

  • http://www.earvolution.com JD

    ouch!

  • Dawn

    That was a downright decent review!

  • raj

    David Schultz is a cunt!

  • http://www.earvolution.com JD

    wow Raj, isn’t that special. thanks for sharing.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Wow, that was harsh.

    Re: the author’s opinion, birds came flying from the underground, if you could see it then you’d understand.

    (Sorry, that was the first thing that came to mind after reading it. I agree with you — Coldplay should be Coldplay and leave the edgy stuff to the Irish band.)

  • http://scatterolight.blogspot.com/ c

    i love u2, but i do like coldplay, too. i feel a little bit bad for coldplay always getting slammed for being u2-lite, but coldplay set themselves up for it by constantly referencing u2 in the press.

    overall X&Y pales next to Rush of Blood in my eyes, but i must say, swallowed by the sea and square one definitely do it for me.

  • DM

    Well said Mr. Schultz, well said. Coldplay the biggest band in the world..yeah right!!

  • http://www.earvolution.com JD

    cool it with the compliments for Schultz, his head is growing by the minute!

  • http://www.earvolution.com Rob

    COLDPLAY ARE THE GREATEST BAND TO EMERGE IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    greatest band to emerge from where? the ranks of dull, lifeless, mid-tempo ‘rockers’?

    yea, i’d agree with that.

  • http://thecouchsessions.com Stone

    Forget Coldplay. X&Y does suck. And they can’t touch U2.

    If you want some REAL UK rock, check out The Doves and Athlete. The Doves album is prob. the best UK album out right now!

  • http://www.blogcritics.com Rob

    They are the best band to emerge. Period. And make that the last 10 years. So who’s better then ? I suppose you think a band like White Stripes are better ?? Pathetic.

  • Eric Olsen

    I picture Coldplay “emerging,” covered in placenta and fetal membranes, shouting “We have emerged!”

  • http://www.earvolution.com JD

    Eric – now that was funny!

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    except for the bass player getting stuck in that pod-thing.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks JD; and Mark, I inadvertently truncated the opening line: “We have emerged! We have come for your Gwyneth!”

  • Justin

    As a huge fan of both of these bands (I must admit allbeit that I got turned on to Coldplay because of their ambient sound what sounds like U2s later stuff) I think that Coldplay absolutely COULD be the next U2. They have a unique sound even though it may be simple. Sting once said during interviews for his Ten Summoners album that, “It is harder to write a simple song than a complicated one.” He went on to say that this is why Dylan was so revered (This could also be said of U2s music. I’ve heard many decriers of U2 use this arguement). I disagree that Coldplay is going to be on the down swing. Most bands start off with a good few albums, then when they have become established and learn their craft better they kick it into a higher gear and it’s only after that that most of them hit a decline. All that aside I think both bands are doing some amazing things.

  • andy

    i like both these bands but make no mistake coldplay will never be a big or as good as U2 have been for the past 20 years or so but having said will any band ever reach U2 standards? coldplay are the closest to get near them.

  • dsfsd

    Coldplay don’t sound like U2.

    They are better than U2 because they don’t have that wanker try hard Bono (thinking he is top shit) at least Martin is honest.

  • http://www.earvolution.com JD

    I must know what the hell a “try hard” is?

  • http://www.earvolution.com Rob

    A ‘try hard’ is a person who, quite literally, tries too hard. Like a guy at a bar who just tries too hard to be cool to pick up the girl and ends up turning her off. Or like dsfsd tries too hard to sound “British” with his commentary – ‘top shit’, ‘wanker’, ‘try hard’ – ok, ok, we get it, you’re British and have such a wry sense of humor. To use an American phrase, get over yourself, douchebag.

  • Holly

    You need to attend a Coldplay concert before comparing them to anyone. The concert was better than any U2 concert I have been to, and I love them. Watch out world, here comes Coldplay… people were litearlly running to the bathroom so they did not miss a moment of their show. I did not see that at U2, or any other concert for that matter.