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decent music; incredibly banal lyrics
on March 27, 2006
The recipe for Coldplay's massive commercial success with their "X&Y" album is simple--first, have some incredibly banal, faux-uplifting, lowest common denominator lyrics on hand; start the tune off with an atmospheric, drumless intro; then steadily build up to a 'big', 'anthemic', densely-produced chorus; end the song with a little outro to ease the listener out of the song. Then, repeat the process until there's enough material to fill out a full album. Oh, and give the album's first single--"Speed Of Sound"--an opening piano riff that's a virtual clone of the one from their previous smash hit "Clocks".
That's essentially what's going on here. I'm not denying that the band has talent for nicely-produced, tuneful pop-rock songs that are sometimes even ear-catching. The thing is though, these guys are trying to turn basically every song into some kind of soul-stirring anthem, and that's simply never going to happen with such consistently lame, obvious, witless, and crassly-calculated lyrics about how they will "try to fix you" and how "you don't have to be alone". To put it another way, the 'hugeness' of the music is incompatible with the thinness of the lyrics, and it really gets to be disheartening by the end of the album.
I'll admit that Chris Martin's vocal delivery isn't BAD. He does have a nice falsetto, and he knows how to use it effectively, sometimes when you're not expecting it. Frankly, he even manages to beat Bono at his own game--Martin's vocals aren't nearly as pretentious and overblown as Bono's are. However, it's still laughable how Martin takes the shallow lyrics so damn seriously all the time as if they're high poetry--the melodically toothless intro on "Swallowed In The Sea" is the most eyeroll-inducing example of this.
Musically, the band does have talent. Nice use of atmospherics, bass lines, and overtones help make the music highly listenable--their co-producers Danton Supple and Ken Nelson probably deserve at least some of the credit for this. The group also knows a thing or two about assimilating musical influences--they neatly weave Kraftwerk's "Computer Love" melody into "Talk" (the composers of the original "Computer Love" ARE credited here in the booklet); the bit before the chorus on "Speed Of Sound" instantly recalls "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush, another influence the band has openly admitted to.
The only way I can understand anyone thinking this album is a masterpiece is because they simply haven't listened to that much music. I mean, it's 2006, folks. This album, which came out in June of last year, really doesn't offer us anything musically that hadn't already been done, and with far better lyrics matched to it. If you took a really talented lyricist and singer, a Jackson Browne for instance, and stuck him in front of Coldplay, the difference could be tremendous, supplying the group with an emotional center that it so desperately lacks. As it is, the group remains stuck at, ahem, "Square One"--okay, okay, not THAT bad (sorry, I couldn't resist), but you get the idea.