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Capitol Records

Chris Martin & Co. come up close in delivering another epic

Perhaps the most anticipated album of the year, Coldplay's X&Y delivers but falls just short of the dizzying heights reached on 2002's stellar A Rush Of Blood To The Head. But X&Y sure tries hard to better its predecessor. In reaching for magnum-opus status, leadoff track "Square One" even uses a variation of the 2001 theme to set the stage for an epic outing. From there, X&Y takes you on an intergalactic journey through space and time in a quest for answers of the universe that elude us all: the "White Shadows" of the world; things that we know exist but don't understand.

While X&Y is a solid work with no filler, it ultimately feels like Coldplay on autopilot, never straying too far from familiar territory. In fact, several strands of X&Y's DNA contain near-identical strumming structures and minimal melodic progressions as heard previously on breakout hit "Yellow" and over half of the songs on Rush Of Blood.... Furthermore, Chris Martin's keening falsetto can wear on you at times, especially when it often opens a handful of songs. These earmarks may comprise Coldplay's formula, but it's one that's less potent with X&Y.

Jon Buckland's gleaming guitar sound gives X&Y a euphonic radiance, but overall there are fewer high points here than on Rush Of Blood..., although the emotive buildup in "Fix You" is sure to be an almost spiritual experience in concert. Unlisted closing track "'Til Kingdom Come" is a poignant ode to the late Johnny Cash and a refreshing delight that makes you wish Coldplay unplugged a few more times. And one edge X&Y does have over earlier albums is an urgency that yields faster songs (pulsing rocker "White Shadows") and catchier beats ("Square One", "Talk").

Textually, Martin's lyrics are mostly mediocre and generic enough to have a universal scope. Within many songs he alternates between existential musings for the general public and confessions of love for Ms. Paltrow. There's also a running thread of the importance of trying, as well as the need for basic communication amongst the cacophony of confusion in the world ("Talk"). Martin also discusses possible political vacillation on swirling jam "Twisted Logic".

U2's influence throughout X&Y is undeniable, but attempts to equate Coldplay as the next U2 are premature and just plain unfair to Bono & Co. Like U2, however, Coldplay's music does have an astounding appeal that resonates strongly with the masses.

In "Talk", which features starry Edge-like guitar licks, Martin poses this notion of incompletion: "Do you feel like a puzzle, you can't find your missing piece?"

If Coldplay really wants to reach the peak of the musical mountain where they believe U2 reigns, they'll first need to consider this question for themselves.

-Ken Devine

Track Listing:
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. The Hardest Part
11. Swallowed in the Sea
12. Twisted Logic
13. Til Kingdom Come
Hidden Track
Standout Tracks: "White Shadows", "Fix You", "Swallowed In The Sea", "'Til Kingdom Come"

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