"X&Y" launches Coldplay ahead of the pack

June 20, 2005, midnight | By Kiran Bhat | 18 years, 10 months ago

Music that transcends time and space, and actually makes you feel, doesn't come along very often. But with their highly anticipated junior album "X&Y," British quartet Coldplay does just that, for a Beatles-esque third time in a row.

From its opening lines, "X&Y" skillfully straddles the boundary between melodrama and poignancy. Front-man Chris Martin has moments where he is obviously crooning about his wife — and mother of his baby girl Apple— Gwyneth Paltrow. But with Martin delivering such mushiness in his haunting falsetto, it's really hard to care about what he's saying.

Some tracks, such as "Fix You," offer true poetics. As Martin starts the track singing "When you try your best but you don't succeed/When you get what you want but not what you need," you can really feel his sadness. Then, when Martin wisps the first words of the chorus: "Lights will guide you home/ and ignite your bones" with guitarist Jon Buckland's soaring riff, hearts are sure to be lifted along with the music.

But back to Paltrow: It seems that the one major difference between "X&Y" and Coldplay's other two standouts, 2000's "Parachutes" and 2002's "A Rush of Blood to the Head," is its theme. Whereas Coldplay's other two CDs feature Martin's seemingly endless, unrequited search for love, Martin makes an expression of the love he already has and his fear of losing it on "X&Y." However, Coldplay's lyrics are just as weighty in "X&Y" as they were in the band's previous work; now they simply have a new focus. In order to complement the new message, the album also features a new musical stance.

With "X&Y," Coldplay releases itself from the oft-made comparisons to fellow British alternative band Radiohead. Drawing inspiration from bands such as Kraftwerk and erstwhile superstars like David Bowie, Coldplay creates a new synth-heavy, electrical sound for "X&Y." Nowhere else is the new sound more evident than in the album's first single, the forgettable "Speed of Sound," which sounds more like an attempt at earning radio play than an actual Coldplay song. But that is not to say that the entire album is so.

At first, the new sound seems like a letdown following the deep acoustic guitar-punctuated-by-piano feel of the band's past work, but after a few spins, the amount of depth and remarkable layering of tracks like "Low" reveal themselves to great effect. "Low" even features drummer Will Champion rhythmically tapping on wine glasses.

There are more new, even better elements that add on to Coldplay's already relaxing sound. Orchestral instruments take on a more prominent role in "X&Y," and the effect is profound. The album's title track features a soft violin background as Martin waxes the philosophical lyrics, "Trying hard to speak and fighting with my weak hand/Driven to distraction, it's all part of the plan."

However, the standout tracks on "X&Y" are actually the simplest. Coldplay has a remarkable ability to make everything out of nothing. "X&Y" is at its most poignant during "Swallowed by the Sea," which is buried in the netherworld of the album's final tracks. The track has a few simple electric guitar riffs and a common drumbeat, but it soars so high that it's hard to come back down. The next best track on the CD is "Till Kingdom Come," which closes the CD and was originally intended to be for late country legend Johnny Cash. Martin does his best to evoke Cash's booming, resonating voice, and, surprisingly, it works well.

Contrary to the common critical cliché that "X&Y" is just another rehash album from a band whose songs all sound the same, Coldplay's junior offering is unique, smart, sophisticated, layered and remarkably deep. With its new sound, new message and new feel, "X&Y" is entirely different from "Parachutes" and "A Rush of Blood to the Head," but still terrific in its own right.

Kiran Bhat. Kiran Bhat is a senior who loves the Washington Redskins, 24, Coldplay, Kanye West, Damien Rice, Outkast and Common (Sense). He aspires to be the next Sanjay Gupta. He will miraculously grow a Guptaesque telegenic face and sculpted body by the age of 30. In … More »

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