June 18, 2005

Coldplay: X And Meh?

I have been hemming and hawing about reviewing this new Coldplay CD because 1) I didn’t feel like playing it enough to learn it and 2) I increasingly found myself surrounded by their hype and backlash in way that makes it hard to have a pure opinion on X&Y.

X&Y is an okay album; catchy, good in the car, but not great and certainly not better than U2, as Chris Martin would like or need us to believe. His interviews are clues to the fundamental flaws of this record. One is a desire to be the best arena band in the world, which means that all the songs are manufactured for bigness, so they lose intimacy. It’s a Hollywood summer blockbuster version of emotion. The arrangements all end up at the same point: blazingly anthemic. This is a complete betrayal of what they did on their first CD, Parachutes, on songs like “Trouble” where Chris sounded as if he was whispering in my ear.

The second problem? X&Y is totally overbaked. In fact, it’s burnt! These songs have been recorded and rerecorded so many times there is no spontaneity. You frequently know exactly where the songs will go because they have used every rule in the book. I know you've read where bands say they could have remade their hit record, but wanted to go down a different road? Not Coldplay! This record really is a weak sequel to A Rush Of Blood To The Head. Like, a rush of cash to the bank.

The best song is “Fix You,” a Coldplay ballad that follows all the Coldplay rules, but manages to be pretty and emotional. The midpoint “tears stream down” choir of Chris Martins gives me chills, as does the really pure, unadorned vocal at the very end. The album needs more of that. The “ignite your bones” chorus is actually worth quoting, whereas most of the songs on this record are embarrassing in their predictable rhyme schemes (“What If” makes me cringe: song-wrong-belong?) or vague “wellness” lyrics.

When “Speed Of Sound” came out it sounded pretty, but a little tepid. It ages well considering the bland claptrap that follows it. If you have the single, you may know that Martin removed a good song from the record (“Things I Don’t Understand”) in favor of the pokey “A Message” - that one is supposed to be in his words a “simple song” and it starts that way, but devolves into more Staples Center mush. "My song is love"? More like "my song is meh"!!

The whole first “side” of the record is quite good: I particularly like “White Shadows” and the spirally “X&Y”, but it really falls apart in the second half when the sameiness of the arena rock sets in. I don’t even want to give songs like “Swallowed By The Sea” or “Twisted Logic" a chance. "The Hardest Part" at least channels REM and 10,000 Maniacs, rather than some Dublin band. Still, don’t get me started on the transparently craven attempt to write a song (‘Til Kingdom Come”) for Johnny Cash, a la Bono and Edge. With more truly bad rhymes, it’s nothing special, but you just know Chris worked so hard on it! Well, boo hoo. There’s too much music out there to waste my time with overwrought layers of nothingness.

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