Gwyneth killed Coldplay. She sucks, lets get her! Haha, just joshin'. Those early rumors about her singing on the album were just a bunch o' milarkey (I'm trying to bring back old timey words that people don't use anymore, can you tell?). Actually, Chris Martin's new love Gwyney has inspired a return to the sweet sounds of Coldplay's debut, Parachutes. Less politically inspired than their last effort, and certainly less "commercial", X&Y takes the expansive, larger than life production of A Rush Of Blood To The Head and mixes it with the relationship-centric, gentle sweetness of the band's debut. Though of course, it's not all rose pedals, heart-shaped chocolates and champagne of X&Y. There are some rocking tracks as well... well, rocking for Coldplay.
Album opener, "Square One" is an upbeat thrill ride that incorporates elements of the bombastic masters of the rock & roll universe, U2 (ex. Edge-ish guitar with muted string, shufflly breakdown thing and Bono-inspired chorus-drenched chanting). Track two, "What If", is a down tempo, piano-led, string-laced ode to love life insecurity while "White Shadows" (track three) is a pulsating, fast-paced second single in waiting, complete with catchy-as-hell chorus and "you can do anything" message. Chris Martin shows off his vocal prowess on this track as well, singing "ahh, ahh, ahhs" in a complicated scale, a la that really tall blue chick from the 5th Element (anyone...? anyone...?). Track four is "Fix You", the track that made Gwyneth cry at Coldplay's recent Chicago gig. It's a relationshippy ballad that could wisely be used by a naughty boyfriend to win back his heartbroken girlfriend's affection. "Talk" (track five) was actually leaked earlier this year, so you may have heard it, but it's been cleaned up a bit since then. I get this one confused with the first single, "Speed Of Sound", due to the similar sounding guitar riffs and vocal phrasing, but since that's a good song, I could think of worse things than having two of them on a record. Title track "X&Y" comes next. More strings, more falsetto "Oooos and Aaaahs" and more piano with more relationship stuff, but this one has a Beatles-esque George Martin quality to the production, especially in the chorus. The next track, track seven, is "Speed Of Sound". Unless you're living in a hole, you know this one already. It's a smash. It's Coldplay at their finest. No description necessary. Track eight is the track that college dudes will be trying to figure out on their guitars so they can score babes by showing them their emotional side. It's called "A Message". Beginning with a simple acoustic guitar and vocal arrangement that lasts through the first verse, the song explodes in full swirling Coldplay glory into the "I'm nothing without you" song all the ladies love to hear and dream that Chris Martin is singing it to them. Track nine, "Low", is another up tempo offering, this time with dark undertones and driving bass line with themes of love and loss that continue into the next song, "The Hardest Part", which is also a bit of a downer tune (in a good way). Track 11, "Swallowed By The Sea" is about that moment of clarity attained after a hard break-up where everything gets put into perspective and you realize that life is going to be OK. The "last" song is a slowly building, uber thick, Peter Gabriel-sounding (in the chorus) song about the confusion of life called "Twisted Logic", which is followed by the "hidden track" (which in the days of iTunes doesn't really apply anymore) called "Till Kingdom Come". One of the best songs on the album, this tune is an acoustic-only, folksy affair with thick Americana overtones.
X&Y is clearly a big record for Coldplay. This is the one that can seal the deal and make Coldplay full fledged worldwide superstars, or the one that will turn everyone against them. With two albums under their belt coming into this one, they are huge, no question, but they are one bad album away from a backlash I'm not sure they can withstand. If they didn't bring it strong with this album, their growing rock kingdom could begin to crumble. I mean, Radiohead made one of the greatest albums of all time with their third offering. So how does X&Y stack up? Well, Coldplay isn't changing the universe with this album like Radiohead did with OK Computer, but what they do instead is solidify their place as one of the worlds biggest and best bands by creating a genre almost all their own. What does X&Y sound like? It sounds like Coldplay. And creating your very own niche in the pop music marketplace is the stuff careers are made of. Just ask U2.