The latest trend in music coming from across the Atlantic has been the return to rock ‘n’ roll. Bands like The Strokes, The Hives and The Vines have come to the US sporting a devil-may-care attitude and a sound to back it up. However, a lack of variety in their music coupled with an extreme case of overexposure (the most annoying of which is MTV, who, for all its viewers know, was on the ground floor when these bands broke) has left some listeners crying out for something new. Could Chris Martin’s crooning be the breath of fresh air listeners need? Coldplay’s latest A Rush of Blood to the Head has the answer.
Coldplay builds on an idea of “simple music” with this album. There are no complicated verse riffs, mind-blowing solos, or jazzy drum parts featured in any song. Like their first album Parachutes, they’ve taken the lonely and begging words of a lead singer, a basic piano or guitar line, and pulled them together into a tight musical composition. The difference on A Rush is in the studio production. Clearly this is a band trying to get their music out to the masses by making it much more listenable. The mild overdrive and acoustic guitar that quietly guided Parachutes has been replaced by a wall of sound from guitarist Jonnie Buckland. Added to that is a combination of piano and full orchestration that gives this new collection of songs a very regal, ballad-like feel.
Perhaps this is the natural evolution of Coldplay, a direction in which they were inevitably going to head. A Rush is an album lacking nothing – and therein lies the problem. Each song is so filled with sound and studio production that it is difficult not to desire the simplicity of Parachutes. The weakest spot on this album, the single “In My Place,” is full of noise and strings and studio effects, but wholly lacks good lyrics or songwriting. It forces listeners to wonder if Coldplay’s focus was on making their music sound its best, or simply replicating the success of their hit single “Yellow.”
There are bright spots here, specifically those carried by lead singer Chris Martin’s piano playing. Although I initially questioned the lack of acoustic guitar, the notes played by Martin on songs like “The Scientist” and “Amsterdam” show his emotion and amplify his lyrics in a way the guitar never could. The centerpiece of this album is the song “Clocks,” which could be an Enya composition if not for the drum beat. A beautiful piano riff glitters and floats in the background, while Martin takes his voice up to the falsetto heavens.
This newest Coldplay album sounds great – there is no denying that. However, in expanding their sound they have sacrificed the originality that made their debut album so powerful. A Rush is nothing new and walks on the well-beaten path, whether it was the story with Morning Glory, an Invisible Band, or The Man Who. For a band with this much talent, it would be a shame if they find themselves content being filed away in a category called Brit-rock. Coldplay shouldn’t settle, and at times on A Rush, it seems they already have.