A Rush of Blood to the Head
It's not fair that "Yellow" is Coldplay's only hit to date.
There were other, better songs on Parachutes, such as "Shiver" and "Don't Panic," that deserved equal attention.
So why should a band as serious and well-meaning as Coldplay be remembered for an obsessive love song about stars, skin and bone?
With the dazzling A Rush of Blood to the Head, Coldplay returns, sans the fluffiness of "Yellow," to amaze with its spirit, ability and ambition.
Fans of Parachutes will be surprised -- and probably divided -- over Coldplay's new direction. The sound of A Rush of Blood to the Head is definitely derived from Parachutes, but the intensity of songs like the title track and "Clocks" eclipse the Grammy-winning first album.
Gone are the aimless reveries of the drooled-over debut. In their place are tension-filled epics like "A Whisper" and "God Put A Smile Upon Your Face."
With the new directness comes a somber tone. Some will attempt to chalk this up to the effects of Sept. 11. While this theory may bear truth on the heaving inner turmoil of "Politik," written a few days after the attacks, that excuse is tired.
The rest of the album has less to do with foreign policy and more to do with the affairs of the heart.
Most of the album focuses around the dissolution of various love affairs. But don't let the subject matter of A Rush of Blood to the Head trick you into thinking that Coldplay has nothing to say.
Lead singer/songwriter Chris Martin is determined to put a new twist on the old metaphors.
"The Scientist," about scrapping a mathematical equation for love, is ironically heartfelt and startlingly organic.
And the first single, "In My Place," could easily have been reduced to mawkish drivel -- but the passion in Martin's voice, contrasted with the band's carefully composed and measured playing, reflects the real struggle to find oneself.
What's most striking about the new Coldplay is the band's comfort in playing with its influences.
Unlike the shy Coldplay of yore, this incarnation wears its influences on its sleeve with a self-assured bravado.
The Jeff Buckley/U2 badge is still worn proudly, and now, with "God Put A Smile Upon Your Face," all the previously unfounded Radiohead comparisons ring true.
But the band isn't content to simply cull from the obvious.
The pounding "Daylight," in its uneasy sway and Middle Eastern vibe, sounds like an outtake from Echo and the Bunnymen's 1983 opus Porcupines. Elsewhere, "A Whisper" revisits The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" with guitarist Jon Buckland's bristly strumming and Martin's throaty and evocative vocals.
In the hands of lesser bands, this cut-and-paste technique would wear thin -- leaving a shallow product. But the members' passionate delivery suggests that they are the real thing.
An album this strong has the potential to dwarf everything around it. And if there's any justice in the music world, 15 years from now, people will still be talking about this band.
If the sound of A Rush of Blood to the Head is any indication of things to come, Coldplay will be around to claim the praise and convert the nonbelievers.
The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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