Wednesday, June 08, 2005


The Voice didn't have space for this, so here 'tis.


In the New York Times, the same crusading paper that warned us about those Nazi bastards in Rammstein, Jon Pareles backhandedly complimented Coldplay, talking about the band's "heart-on-sleeve lyrics...insisting on its own benevolence." But thrilling contrarianism regarding (his words) "the most insufferable band of the decade" was the assignment, so he bravely revealed that "when he's not mixing metaphors, [Chris Martin] fearlessly slings clich├ęs." In the New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones continued the prosecution, testifying that the lyrics used to be "introspective mash notes," but now they're "a thousand coffee-mug mottoes strung together, inspirational at first blush but completely devoid of substance."

Why this fixation on lyrics? And why the selectivity? Blues dudes, death metallers, and rape-happy rappers all get passes. The words aren't the point with Coldplay, anyhow; the swelling chords and pumping piano are the (marketing) hooks. Steve Albini said of Big Black, "Lyrics seemed a necessity, so we had some." Martin would probably agree.

Musically, X&Y is an impressive progression (except for the poorly chosen, "Clocks"-cloning first single, "Speed Of Sound"). "Square One" layers Goth guitars over Tangerine Dream keyboards. "What If" (lyrically no dumber than "Imagine," by the way) has a huge rising wave of strings at the end, not unlike the THX sound-demo at the beginning of a movie. The title track has really pretty psychedelic ooh-aahs on the chorus. Then there's the borrowed Kraftwerk melody on "Talk," much-hyped but hard to actually pick out. The first two Coldplay albums were basically the cheap and expensive versions of each other. (Not a bad thing.) X & Y sounds a little bit like both of them, but demonstrates more than enough evolution to justify its existence. Anyway, the whole point of forgettable lyrics is that you can forget 'em for an hour, and enjoy good music, well played.

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