Large record company needs a few million? No problem! Although they took a bit longer than forecast to get their ducks in a row, Coldplay are a pretty sure thing. This band have a formula that works. Nothing too wrong with that. Despite their reputation as misery merchants, Coldplay have never been only about gloom and doom. In fact, they're equal parts torment and euphoria - a great recipe for pop success.
On X&Y, they're no longer lonely, single or struggling to reach the top. Accustomed to the downsides of fame, they're now writing about the fear of losing what they have - love, family, friendship, success - and the persistent mysteriousness of life. The X factor and the Why, maybe?
The personal, in this album, is a plural. A lot of the words seem to be addressed to a loved one, offering encouragement and support in times of torment and sometimes begging for contact.
Like their previous work, the music on X&Y seems to be calling on the listener to surrender to sadness, to glory in gloom and to ache for more then the mundane. Resigned to its pain, it's the kind of record you could cry to while driving your fairly OK car to the comforting trap of your office job.
Unfortunately, despite the accessible potency of the Coldplay formula, it doesn't survive the extra ingredients that have been added on X&Y. Though Chris Martin's vocals still take centre stage, the trusted, sparse sound has been replaced with arrangements thick with effects, deflavoured U2 guitar, and other clutter. If Martin still has that British accent, you can't hear it. The intimacy that made their previous music so appealing is subsumed by flawless overproduction. The lyrics are for the most part blandly incomprehensible instead of quirkily poetic.
Worst of all, X&Y lacks one essential part of the Coldplay formula: Pop. We forgave them for being less than original because they made catchy tracks out of pain with songs like "Clocks" and "Yellow". But as epic as X&Y seems to be trying to be, the songs verge on forgettable. A large wash of angst, a pleasurable kind of blues, is all you're left with when it's over.
Although the title track, and the first single "Speed of Sound" definitely some close to hooking you, none of their new sure hits would have made the world sit up and listen if Coldplay were not already famous. (In an ideal world, we'd be buying Durban band Deluxe's new album - This is Deluxe - instead.)
Of course, Coldplay are nothing if not professional. So X&Y is packed with slickly detailed sounds, and lovely tunes. It even has its sublime moments, like on "White Shadows" that "sparkle and glisten". As a quality product? Full marks. Fans will, and should buy it. Low grade, U2 flavoured Coldplay is better than none! But unfortunately, a few of Coldplay's much maligned imitators (Athlete in particular) have produced a new version of the same thing since Coldplay last released an album, and the changes that Coldplay have made are for the generic. They might make you understand them, but they won't make you feel it with them.
When so many people imitate you that your sound has become tired, you may feel it's unfair. But unusually talented bands will do as U2 or Radiohead did, and break new ground. They do not allow fame, company profits, or creeping complacency to trap them. Coldplay could try imitating that, too.- Jean BarkerWATCH COLDPLAY VIDEOS: Click links to watch Coldplay's excellent videos online. Use ADSL on a fast connection for higher quality, and Dial-up if you're on a 56kbps Modem or you're in a hurry."Clocks - Live" WHAT OTHER CRITICS SAID:It may be pointless to hate them, but with this album, they've almost certainly become the easiest band on the planet to be completely indifferent to. - Joe Tangari for Pitchfork MediaThis album is superb. It'll silence their critics, amaze their fans and win them a whole new legion of admirers. It might even bring about world peace! - Dan Tallis for BBC
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