In the media blitz last year preceding the release of their hotly anticipated album "X&Y," the guys of Coldplay made their mission quite clear: They want to be the best and biggest rock band in the world.
And, for better or worse, the British quartet (Chris Martin on vocals and piano, Jonny Buckland on guitar, Will Champion on drums and Guy Berryman on bass) may be well on its way to realizing that goal.
It took just two albums, the highly acclaimed "Parachutes" (2000) and "A Rush of Blood to the Head" (2002), for Coldplay to become an international phenomenon, selling 20 million records around the globe. The band's stately, melodic power rock, ubiquitous on pop radio, has spun off several imitators. Starry-eyed high school girls, sensitive college dudes, hip-hop cats, soccer moms - they all dig Coldplay's music.
Coldplay performs Wednesday at Key Arena in Seattle.Ever since handsome frontman Martin married actress Gwyneth Paltrow in 2003 and the two soon afterward had a baby girl named Apple (Paltrow reportedly is pregnant again), the group (well, Martin) has skyrocketed on the celebrity scale.
There was plenty riding on the band's third album, including the stock price for EMI Group, the company that owns Capitol, Coldplay's label. (After the release date was moved from February to August 2005, EMI's stock plummeted 16 percent in one day.) Of course, there were all those critics and eager fans who wanted to know if "X&Y" measured up to or extended the greatness of Coldplay's previous gems, such as "Yellow" and "Clocks."
Did it? Well, not exactly. It is obvious from the first note on "X&Y" that the gents were high on the fumes of their whirlwind success, that they want to obliterate U2 by pilfering from the veteran band's "Achtung Baby"-era sound, injecting it with their dramatic musical flourishes. Coldplay's sound has always been big and grand, somewhat inaccessible at first but still magnetic, sometimes beautiful.
But on "X&Y," the music is too pumped up at times, full of surging arrangements that are so meticulously crafted there's hardly sign of a pulse underneath. And Martin, the heart-in-hand chap with the idiosyncratic vocal style, goes into self-pity overload. It's hard sometimes to get close to the music because Coldplay's super-sized pretensions are in the way.
Overall, "X&Y" was the weakest of the three Coldplay albums. In just five years, the guys achieved mammoth success with a sound that obviously borrows from U2, Radiohead, the Beatles and the Verve but manages to retain a sense of originality - principally because Martin's vocal approach is so distinctive.
With such a quick artistic and commercial peak, it surely must be intimidating for Coldplay to return to the studio and flip its sound into something fresher, more adventurous and less predictable. But if you're trying to be the best and biggest rock band in the world, isn't that what you do?
Maybe on the next record, that goal will truly come to fruition. But the fellas of Coldplay need to get over themselves first.
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