Record Review by Adam McKibbin
A heavy shroud of secrecy hung over Coldplay’s much-anticipated third album, with whispers coming that the band had found their inner Kraftwerk and were moving away from their spaciously lite stadium-rock. In a classic move of misdirection, the Brits actually went off and made an album that sounds exactly like you’d expect. Anyone waiting for a bold revelation or an embarrassing misstep is waiting on the wrong band.
There are only hints of new influences—whiffs at what the band listened to during the in-between time (a roster that likely includes New Order and Interpol). X&Y reveals a band that is either too timid or too satisfied to stray from their enormously successful formula, although that doesn’t mean they are without ambition. They write material that seems to be designed at winning over the largest audience possible, and they never tack on leftovers or filler. Almost each track gets the painstaking love too often afforded to only singles, and the hard work pays off: X&Y is an easy immersion from start to finish. It is, unabashedly, a very pretty and well-crafted album.
Unfortunately, it’s also a mediocrity. Nothing musters the urgency of “Clocks,” nothing bears the simple charms of “Don’t Panic.” Chris Martin sings his heart out—too much so at times—but beneath the tender piano and textured ambience lurks the lyrical nuance of Dave Matthews. There’s Chris “floating on a tidal wave” (the title track). There he is, in a different song, encouraging you to “climb a ladder up to the sun!” (“Talk”). His soul-searching questions about loneliness and unworthiness are written with the vague, all-encompassing gaze of motivational speakers and pharmaceutical advertisements, designed to make everyone feel like someone has pinpointed their problems and is ready to write them an escape ticket.
To his credit, though, Martin’s falsetto has become perhaps the most likeably familiar and enduring of all the voices in the easy-listening corner of the rock and roll universe. He’s the Ray Romano of mainstream music; you may not watch or like the show, but you still recognize that it’s significantly better than a lot of its competition. In a world where even Keane has spawned Keane wannabes, Coldplay continues to be a crowd pleaser and a class act. The masses could do a lot worse.
More by this writer:
Morrissey - Live at Earls Court
Roman Candle - The Wee Hours Revue
My Morning Jacket - Z
Beth Orton - Comfort of Strangers