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"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Thursday, June 02, 2005

HOORAY FOR DRAMATIC ROCK MUSIC

Coldplay, X & Y - ****


I love Coldplay. In this era of heartless, cynical minimalism in rock (Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, etc), Chris Martin and his bandmates have set out to find every crescendo, every evocative violin and organ part, and every ounce of naked emotion in existence, and weave them into their music. Their template has become more complex and more dramatic through their three albums, the quaint Parachutes (2000), the anthem-heavy A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002), and now X & Y, 2005's best album to date, the album U2 couldn't quite make last year.

Chris Martin is something of a hero of mine. He has a beautiful voice, writes evocative music, and makes love to a beautiful UCSB student. Need I say more? (actually, if you ask me, she was only attractive in Royal Tenenbaums) My only complaint about him is that I like to write more specific lyrics than he does, but there's something to be said for universalism and inclusiveness.

There are a number of recognizable types of Coldplay songs. One of them is "cosmopolitan power-pop", represented on past albums by "Don't Panic", "High Speed", and "Politik". On X & Y the opener "Square One" is clearly in this genre, and it's quite a riveting piece at that; its hook, one I wish I'd thought of, is Martin vocally sampling "Thus Spake Zarathustra". Also of the genre is the album's closer "Twisted Logic", a 3/4-time venture into the state of the world, including this lyrical swipe: "Created, then drilled and invaded / If somebody made it, somebody will mess it up". Hmm.

Sometimes Coldplay finds a bit of a quasi-inspirational groove. Sometimes, though, they can overdo it. Case in point, "Fix You", which I found a bit lyrically overwrought and clunky ("If you try your best but you don't succeed..."). The music -- organ, followed by guitars and a buildup to drums -- is as close to cookie-cutter Coldplay as you'll find here, and is the only blatant misstep on the album.

But then there's the drama. Oh yes. And said drama has an added edge (so to speak), as the guitars bring with them the urgency of a primo Edge riff. In fact there's a big U2 element to some of the bigger songs here; the chorus of the lovely "A Message" really evokes this.

The standouts out-climax anything on the previous two albums, save for maybe "Yellow" and the magnificent "Amsterdam" (my favorite Coldplay song, for now). "X & Y" is Coldplay at their anthemic best, with its steady, synocpated melody backed up by a powerful set of toms, exploding into a majestic Floyd-meets-Beatles chorus: "You and me are floating on a tidal wave, together / You and me are drifting into outer space". For your sweet sentimental needs, there's "Swallowed in the Sea". But the real jewel is the bonus track "Til Kingdom Come", an acoustic guitar and piano-driven shuffle that I'm sure Zach Braff wishes were out a couple years ago so he could've played it in the background while making out with Natalie Portman.

I've yet to give X & Y a ranking compared to Coldplay's previous discs, but what I know is this: In a time when rock music has lost the bulk of its heart, we should all be fortunate that Coldplay is still pumping their beautiful music out of god's left ventricle.

(huh?)

UPDATE: Why did the brain trust at Rolling Stone let some 50 Cent and Limp Bizkit fan write their review?

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