Billboard Reviews X&Y
Originally posted on April 20, 2005 5:51 AM
Coldplay offers up a bigger, louder version of its widely loved pop/rock sound on its third studio album, "X&Y." Due June 7 in North America via Capitol, the 12-track set is led by the soaring single "Speed of Sound," which has already racked up massive U.S. radio airplay since being delivered to stations yesterday (April 18).
Befitting the importance of the album's fortunes to Capitol parent EMI (shares in the company dropped 16 percent in February after it blamed release delays of albums by Coldplay and Gorillaz for lower than expected profits), extreme security measures have been put in place for media playbacks. Journalists are required to listen to the set on an iPod locked inside a clear case, with a security guard perched outside an open door.
Coldplay blew up worldwide on the strength of its 2002 sophomore set, "A Rush of Blood to the Head," and much of the music on the new album seems crafted for maximum impact to large live audiences. The set opens with "Square One," a dark, pounding tune that bristles with energy and will likely become a concert favorite.
"White Shadows" sports a danceable beat and a taste of frontman Chris Martin's vocal acrobatics, while the peppy, vaguely menacing "Low" seems primed for arena airplay. "Twisted Logic," which at first recalls the measured midtempo rock of Radiohead circa "The Bends," also features a swelling finish.
But there are plenty of Coldplay's now patented anthemic ballads, such as the piano-driven "What If?," where the lines of each verse begin with the titular question. Drumless for its majority, "Fix You" builds to a multi-tracked vocal conclusion and a solo piano outtro. Martin pledges to uplift the listener at times "when you try your best but you don't succeed / when you get what you want but not what you need."
"A Message" would make a logical choice for a second single, its strong sonic debt to U2 belied by Martin's unabashedly sentimental lyrics: "My song is love, love unknown / And I've got to get that message home."
Martin, who married actress Gwyneth Paltrow in late 2003, extends the love-dominated theme with the consecutive songs "Hardest Part" and "Swallowed in the Sea," the latter of which mourns for lost loved ones. Built around fast but folky acoustic strumming in the vein of Nick Drake, the bonus track "'Til Kingdom Come" puts it even simpler: "for you I've waited all these years."
One surprise is "Talk," an early version of which was leaked online earlier this year. The band has since completely revamped the song structure, adding different lyrics and ratcheting up the guitar levels. The cut retains the melody from Kraftwerk's "Computer Love," with the main riff played on guitar as opposed to the synthesizers that marked the original.
Coldplay is gearing up for an April 29 warm-up show at the Joint in Las Vegas, and a headlining slot the following night at California's Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. A European tour begins June 15 in Hamburg.
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