Coldplay’s new record has been the subject of intense speculation; from investment bankers evaluating record sales to brit pop music fans. Coldplay, the next U2, Coldplay, the only band of the twenty-first century that matters, Coldplay the blah, blah, blah. I know a lot of people care deeply about this band and I am not saying that Coldplay sucks because of all the hype. I just don’t care what Chris Martin thinks. He isn’t charismatic enough to make me care for his music beyond what his talent actually presents to me in the form of a silicon wafer. So I will continue to judge Coldplay based solely upon the quality of their music. The big question of course being, does the new album deliver? No.
X&Y isn’t a bad record. It just feels so harmless. Rocks biggest bands usually take risks. There is nothing risky about X&Y. Square One starts things off a bit more up-tempo than the material on 2002’s A Rush of Blood to the Head, but this was just a tease. By What If we are back into mellow piano land – only not as good mellow piano land as previous efforts.
Fix You is the first song that stands out. A little over the top lyrically, “Lights will guide you home/and ignite your bones/and I will I try to fix you.” Even so it’s a bold stroke, very U2ish, with an uplifting musical bridge. This is what X&Y should have been, somewhat embarrassing, somewhat brash, but willing to take risks. Instead Coldplay mostly played it safe with Radioheadish droners. I guess this allows to band to claim that listeners just didn’t get it.
Fix You is followed up by a good emo cover of Kraftwerk’s Talk, yet even here Coldplay runs home to momma. Of all the covers they could have picked, and all the arrangements they could have made. There is nothing here to challenge their listeners. The same can be said for Speed of Sound, the first single. It’s a good track, enjoyable to listen to, yet it’s hard to remember a single lyric without actually trying. It just flows over the ear without making an imprint.
Most of the rest of the album just isn’t remarkable enough for comment. The Hardest Part is a bit of a failure but at least it makes the effort to be distinctive. Swallowed by the Sea, a somewhat nonsense love song, manages to pull out a good emotional hook, “You belong with me, not swallowed in the sea.” But that’s it. Where’s the rest of this record?
X&Y fails because it doesn’t try hard enough. It lacks the longing and disappointment that were so layered in previous Coldplay releases. At the same time it isn’t original enough. It’s almost as if Coldplay is covering Coldplay, and not even doing a good job of it. That is not to say that it isn’t a pleasant listen. It is in fact a very pleasant listen, like all easy listening music. X&Y – coming to a lounge near you.