For those who would think fatherhood has warped Chris Martin’s sweet-as-young-love arrangements or dutiful lyrics, fear not. Nothing has changed — not even a little bit. In fact, Coldplay’s newest album, X&Y, is proof that the quartet can still pound out beautiful songs no matter the mood. Martin’s judgment as to what makes a quality song is as about as good as his child-naming abilities are questionable.
For those of you just joining us from Siberia, 2002 was a lucrative year for Coldplay. Still riding the wave of success from their 2000 debut Parachutes, the boys released A Rush of Blood to the Head. Fans were thrilled, the band was pleased, millions were sold, proms had their closing song and everything was gravy. Now, three years later, Coldplay seems like they really want to do it again. Stuck in between the Cocteau Twins-aping emotional downpour of A Rush of Blood to The Head and the confession-booth personal Parachutes, X&Y doesn’t touch any emotional peaks but skirts along everywhere in between pleasantly.
X&Y opens strongly with “Square One,” which boasts a driving backbeat and Martin’s signature vocals punctuating the song in a mess of quiet glory. “White Shadows” begins with a ghostly, almost haunting sound. The energetic drum work and unique rhythm make it one of the most attractive songs on the album.
But the real gem on X&Y is “Fix You.” The lyrics (“When you lose something you can’t replace / When you love someone but it goes to waste / Could it be worse / Lights will guide you home … and I will try to fix you”) might seem corny, and they kind of are, but it’s the kind of corn Martin feasts on.
Here, Martin is at his most sincere and vulnerable. Most of Coldplay’s new fans will be able to relate to these lyrics, especially maudlin teens who think of the band as three random dudes and that guy who married Gwyneth Paltrow.
The strongest songs on X&Y are those with a sparse guitar or piano behind Martin’s vocals. “A Message” is an excellent example; the minimal instrumentation creates a tighter, more lyrical focus. “What If” also fits the mold and tacks on an exciting buildup that drives the song to a close.
While the album is mostly made up of the kind of Coldplay songs we have grown to love, X&Y is not without its faults. The electronic “Talk” misses with a bland, wank-ish guitar and becomes obnoxious after a few listens.
The lead single “Speed of Sound” is also not one of Coldplay’s finest efforts. Cut from the “Clocks” cloth, the dreamy keyboard ballad isn’t really notable for any reason other than the stunning, inexplicable fact that Coldplay tapped it for the first single.
Obviously the die-hard Coldplay fans will eat this up, but for a genuine hype-behemoth like this, shouldn’t there be more answers than puzzles?
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars