Music Review: Coldplay, X&Y

Whenever I hear the name Coldplay, I can’t help thinking of the 1991 movie The Last Boy Scout (Bruce Willis, Damon Wayans), an action thriller about corruption in professional sports. This scene features a high-stakes showdown between two fictitious NFL franchises, the Los Angeles Stallions and the Cleveland Cats, with serious postseason implications for both teams. Of course the game is fixed; Los Angeles Stallions star running back Billy Cole (Billy Blanks) is under orders from his bookie to win this game by any means necessary. The Stallions fall way behind early on, but they come back and make a game of it, largely on the strength of Cole’s running. Still, they trail 17-10 with two minutes left in the game and fifty yards to go for the winning score. So they run a toss sweep to Cole. Cole gets the ball, pulls out a gun, and starts shooting would-be tacklers in a mad dash to the goal line. In the end zone, with the riot police closing in on him, he puts the gun to his own head, says “I’m going to Disneyland!” and blows his brains out.

Now that’s cold play!!!

Sorry, I just had to get that in there. Anyway, about the album…

This is the third album by Coldplay, a follow-up to their 2000 debut album Parachutes and the 2002 album A Rush of Blood to the Head. I do not have either of those albums, but I have listened to A Rush of Blood to the Head, I like it and I would like to get it someday.

Many have said that Coldplay is very much like U2, and that X&Y will be for them what The Joshua Tree was for U2. To a certain extent, I believe this. Coldplay’s sound is similar to the sound of U2’s two newest albums, but Chris Martin has a distinctive bass voice which is quite different from Bono’s.

X&Y is to music what Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is to literature. The Brothers Karamazov is a deep, dark novel which deals with ultimate questions in life, such as the existence of God, the meaning of life, the problem of suffering, and human guilt and responsibility. X&Y is a deep, dark album which deals with issues such as life and death, love and loss, and things that can never be fully understood. In some places the sound is quiet and intimate, such as at the beginning of “What If”, “Swallowed In The Sea”, and the all-acoustic hidden bonus track “Til Kingdom Come”. In other places it builds to a massive, wide-open, richly textured rock sound that blows you out of your seat. But through the whole album the sound and the mood is deep and dark.

One of the high points of the album for me is “Fix You”. Our church played this as the opening song on Sunday, September 11, while showing images of the World Trade Center devastation. I felt that this made a very fitting tribute.

Other high points include the songs “What If”, “A Message”, and “Swallowed In The Sea”. These are haunting songs of love, and I could easily picture myself singing any of them to the woman of my dreams.

“What If” begins with Chris Martin at the piano and builds to a powerful crescendo at the end, and it speaks to the fear of separation and alienation that exists in many of our relationships.

What if there was no light?
Nothing wrong, nothing right?
What if there was no time
And no reason or rhyme?
What if you should decide
That you don’t want me there by your side,
That you don’t want me there in your life?

What if I got it wrong,
And no poem or song
Could put right what I got wrong
Or make you feel I belong?
What if you should decide
That you don’t want me there by your side,
That you don’t want me there in your life?

These opening lines speak to a fear that underlies almost all of my relationships, especially with those of the opposite sex. Because alas, I have gotten it wrong. I have pushed things, in some of my relationships with women whom I respected and admired very much, to the point where “no poem or song / Could put right what I got wrong.”

The will of another person is a very powerful force, over which we ultimately have no control whatsoever. What if the people in my life who mean the most to me should decide, for some reason, that they don’t want me around? What if I am getting it all wrong without even being aware of it, and my actions and behavior are slowly but surely pushing them to that point?

“Swallowed In The Sea” begins in similar fashion, with Chris Martin singing solo and soft keyboards in the background. This song speaks to the experience of being smitten with love for a woman and knowing that she has captured your heart, knowing that she is the one for you and that you don’t want to be anywhere other than where she is.

You put me on a line and hung me out to dry
And darling that’s when I decide to go to sea.
You cut me down to size and opened up my eyes,
Made me realize what I could not see….

The streets you’re walking on, a thousand houses long,
Yeah that’s where I belong, and you belong with me.

“The Message” is perhaps the most U2-like song on the album. This song starts off quietly with Chris Martin and the guitar, then swells to a powerful chorus laden with Edge-like guitar riffs and soaring vocals that are somewhat reminiscent of Bono. This song speaks to the experience of being in love with a woman who is perhaps unwilling to receive attention from you, but being determined to get through to her and win her in the end.

And I’m not gonna take it back,
And I’m not gonna say I told you lies.
You’re the target that I’m aiming at,
And I’m nothing on my own.
Got to get that message home.

And I’m not gonna stand and wait
Not gonna leave it until it’s much too late.
On the platform I’m gonna stand and sing
That I’m nothing on my own
And I love you please come home.

All I will say is that I know what it’s like to have a crush on a girl and feel the exact same thing which Coldplay expresses in this song. And it is no fun to feel this way when the woman to whom your affections are directed does not desire them.

All in all, this is an excellent album, and I recommend it highly.

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One thought on “Music Review: Coldplay, X&Y

  1. Coldplay is incredible live too. A Rush of Blood is my favorite album but all three are dynamite. Most artists today produce one or two good songs off an album but Coldplay produces quality work on every track. I’m excited about their next project soon to be released.

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