Review by Jack Foley
COLDPLAY may rate among the most polite and unassuming blokes you could ever wish to meet (in music terms), but their ambition is colossal.
Having burst onto the scene with their melancholy debut, Parachutes, Chris Martin and co then took a massive step towards super-group status with their follow-up, A Rush of Blood to the Head, which expanded their sound impressively.
Their latest effort looks set to continue the journey towards making them one of the biggest bands in the world – and deservedly so.
X&Y operates on an epic scale, emerging as a triumphant celebration of songwriting that is devoid of the arrogance of Oasis, or the pretensions of many other bands.
If anything, it is one of the most honestly insecure records of the year; a probing, occasionally vulnerable album that still manages to deliver a ray of hope musically.
Talk, for instance, contains the telling lyric, ‘oh brother, I’m so scared about the future and I want to talk to you’, but is enlivened by another simple but tellingly effective guitar riff from Jonny Buckland that even U2’s The Edge would be proud of.
While opening track, Square One, includes the line, ‘the future’s for discovering, the space in which we travel in’ – before exploding into life with some of the most rock-driven guitar work the band has produced thus far.
It’s music to make you think and ponder, that’s also great to listen to, sing along to, dance along with and, most importantly, identify with.
Martin’s particular brand of genius is being able to conjure melodies that effortlessly tap into the public psychology, while delivering lyrics that are designed to make you think.
He doesn’t profess to know anything and suffers the same insecurities and worries about the future as the rest of us – but his tender voice sounds quietly reassuring when wrapped within the majestic riffs that Buckland creates.
What If is another classic example, featuring lyrics such as ‘what if there is no time?’ and ‘what if I got it wrong?’ that smack of doubt and a fear of the future?
The track begins softly, with just Martin’s lyrics and his trusty piano to set things up, before dropping in another classic, weeping guitar-style riff from Buckland.
That’s not to say that X&Y is a depressing album. Quite the opposite. It’s big, epic and uplifting – as well as being their most assured work to date.
Lead single, Speed of Sound, is a joyful, piano-soaked tribute to the miracles that surround us every day that still feels as fresh and brilliant as when we first heard it on the radio.
While White Shadows drops in an urgent bassline to compliment Buckland’s sweeping guitar-work, as well as some interesting keyboard work late on.
The whimsical Fix You is another gem, featuring playful lyrics such as ‘when you get what you want, but not what you need’ that come wrapped in the reassurance that Martin and co ‘will fix you’ – something their music is more than capable of doing.
The piano is swapped for simple acoustic guitar chords on the similarly beautiful, A Message, that once again reassures with the chorus ‘you don’t have to be on your own’, before dropping in an almighty electric guitar sample.
While the unashamedly pop-laden The Hardest Part contains the sort of vocal hooks that are designed to have fans singing along with them in concert. It was one of the last tracks to make it onto the album, but one of the most instantly rewarding.
I could go on… suffice it to say that X&Y is an album to get excited by, and an epic example of one of the greatest bands of the moment doing what they do best.
It may not mark much of an artistic leap forward, and certainly borrows from the likes of The Beatles, Kraftwerk and David Bowie, but retains a style that’s distinctly Coldplay, and an emotional intensity that strongly resonates.
It’s a majestic return that deserves to be among the year’s biggest sellers, and which looks certain to become known as another classic for them.
1. Square One
2. What if?
3. White Shadows
4. Fix You
7. Speed Of Sound
8. A Message
10. Hardest Part
11. Swallowed In The Sea
12. Twisted Logic
13. (Hidden track: ‘Til Kingdom Come)