There seems to be a pattern of my interaction with Coldplay records. Its quite a simple formula really, once one gets the hang of it. It goes as follows:
Step One: Hear the first single on the radio.
Step Two: Talk endless amounts of crap about it, how Coldplay is a total rip off band, with no talent at all.
Step Three: Accidentally trip into hearing the rest of the record. Love it.
Step Four: Be a total ass and retract all of the negativity I spouted Chris Martin’s way, however poetic my attacks on his art may have been.
With that in mind, X&Y is a good record. It has its problem, and its shortcomings, but overall, it is certainly one of the most solid rock records that 2005 has offered up as yet.
After hearing “Speed of Sound” pollute my radio, I was sure that the Coldplay formula had hit a concrete wall, that the band had found a groove with their hit “Clocks”, and were content to stay there, that they had no interest in changing or pushing themselves at all. The word ‘safe’ was bandied about by everyone I know. The same way that “Yellow” and “In My Place” turned my stomach, I flipped the station as soon as the first notes of that generic piece of trash began to worm their way into my ears.
Jesus man, I thought you said it was good.
Two words: “Fix you”. This slow mournful piano tune, in which Martin laments the loss of his wife’s father, and his inability to make her feel whole again brought me to tears the first time I heard it — it is that good. The interplay of Martin’s wispy voice, with the backup harmonies and organic strings pulls the listener out of their world, and into his, if only for a few moments. One doesnt notice that there are no drums, until Will Champion appears at just the right moment, slipping into a build, and the song transforms from a mournful ode to helplessness into an anthem that doesnt seem right unless blown out through the speakers of an arena. Martin’s lyrics are even in rare form, the point yet beautiful, as he sings “when you love someone, but it goes to waste, what could be worse?”.
…the strings slapping becoming as tangible and as important as the notes themselves
Before you can catch your breath from the epic finale of “Fix You”, the band offers up “Talk”, which signals a direction I would love to see the band take. Utilizing the ambient sound of a spaced out keyboard, and mixing it with a catchy digitized lead guitar riff, the band creates a tune that is at once indie and rock, mainstream and unique. “A Message” almost allows the listener to feel the vibrations of Martin’s acoustic guitar, the strings slapping becoming as tangible and as important as the notes themselves. When the pounding drums come in for the chorus, the song takes on another feel, a solid rock song in its own right, soaring above the humble origins of the song.
Don’t carried away thinking “has Coldplay really grown up and become the band that they could be, abandoning tried and true structures of songs that have gotten their records to all sell faster than (insert cliche)?” No, they haven’t. At the end of the day, this record is still ‘safe’, but its a ‘safe’ that leaks into new sounds that the band hasn’t played with before; the resulting tenative exploration is a treat to listen to.
The record still has its problems, most notably, in my opinion, Martin’s lyrics. He refuses to push the potential that is glimpsed in single lines here and there in his songs, from obscurity to the norm. Finding a nugget of a poem in a Coldplay song is a treat, I just wish that there were more whole songs that capture the honesty in “Fix You” and less that drone on like the opening of “What If”, which waxes “What if i got it wrong?/and no poem or song/could put right what I got wrong/and make you feel I belong?” Yes, thats right. He rhymes wrong with wrong. This is a man who is getting paid millions of dollars to write these lyrics, the least he can do is not repeat his trite words into even more forced rhymes.
…and that they had more pressure on them to create a solid record this time out than ever before
The band hasnt found themselves any more on this record than on their others, but they are ever so slightly forcing themselves not to nap on their laurels, but are allowing their sound to mature and change. That said, they are also very aware with this record, of their superstar status. It was certainly on the mind of these four social crusaders from the UK, that their latest record would go Platinum in its first month of release, and that they had more pressure on them to create a solid record this time out than ever before.
All in all, a solid pop/rock record, but still give me Parachutes any day of the week over this more polished product.