1st July 2005
reviewer: Bob
rating: 4 out of 5
published by: Parlophone
released: 6th June 2005
  1. Square One
  2. What if?
  3. White Shadows
  4. Fix You
  5. Talk
  6. X&Y
  7. Speed Of Sound
  8. A Message
  9. Low
  10. Hardest Part
  11. Swallowed In The Sea
  12. Twisted Logic
  13. ‘Til Kingdom Come

Coldplay’s legion of fans and the shareholders at EMI can relax. For their third album they haven’t done a Kid A. On the other hand the band hasn’t quite made their OK Computer yet either. So what have Coldplay made? Well at the risk of ruining the review’s suspense they’ve made a very good album albeit one that sounds very much like the last one. Only turned up to eleven.

The album is split into two sides. On side one are the X songs and on side two are the Y ones. As a concept it’s almost enough to bring a tear to this reviewer’s eye – I can remember when albums were split into two sides because you had to turn the LP over. That said it doesn’t quite work because it sounds very Coldplay-ish all the way through.

It’s been widely reported that Coldplay spent much longer recording this album than either of their previous two. You can hear where the extra time went. The first track, ‘Square One’, opens with Chris Martin’s mournful vocals ‘You’re in control. Is there anywhere you wanna go?’ over almost Pink Floyd-ish synths. Then the drums kick in and as the chorus starts Jonny Buckland wades in with some muscular guitar. It’s a much fuller sound and somehow rockier. Buckland’s guitar almost becomes as much of a signature sound as the Martin vocal/piano combo. It’s a good thing.

For the first five tracks Coldplay barely put a foot wrong. ‘Fix You’ and ‘What If?’ are the big ballads and neither disappoint. Both start with a solo Martin vocal over piano and organ respectively before the lead guitar powers in with some style. More importantly neither fails to tug the heartstrings. Those who have lost someone will feel their eyes prickle when Chris sings ‘Tears stream down your face when you lose something you cannot replace’. This quintet of qualities final track is ‘Talk’, which contains the much-mentioned Kraftwerk sample. If you haven’t heard the original you probably wouldn’t know because the band has made the sampled section their own. It’s another rockier number concerning being misunderstood and lack of communication and what can be done about it.

The Y side isn’t so strong. (So perhaps there is a theme after all: X=good, Y=not so good). First single ‘Speed Of Sound’ sounds very familiar to ‘Clocks’ from their previous album and then the next three songs are a little non descript compared to what’s gone before.

Fortunately, the album ends strongly with a trio of good songs including a secret 13th song ‘Until Kingdom Come’ (that’s actually a separate 13th track on the CD – hurrah for the lack of huge countdown of nothingness!), which is a lovely acoustic affair.

It’s certainly Coldplay’s best album to date; fans can buy with confidence and without fear of disappointment. The first side is better than anything they’ve recorded yet, but the downside is that you get the feeling they are probably sticking a little too faithfully to their formula. The band will benefit from pushing further out from their safety zone next time out. Coldplay may yet have something as good as Ok Computer in them so let’s hope that they have the confidence in their abilities to commit it to CD.

More Info