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Coldplay - Topic

X&Y Play

After Radiohead refused to accept the mantle of "world's biggest and most important rock band," Coldplay stepped up to the plate with their debut, Parachutes. Tasteful, earnest, introspective, anthemic, and grounded in guitars, Coldplay was everything Radiohead weren't but fans wanted them to be; Parachutes became a transatlantic hit and the sequel, A Rush of Blood to the Head, was even bigger, positioning Coldplay to be new Radiohead and the new U2. To that end, Coldplay's third album, X&Y, is designed to elevate them to the major leagues. It's deliberate and sleek, hip enough to sample Kraftwerk and blend in fashionable post-punk allusions without altering the band's core. X&Y is hardly a bold step forward, but rather a consolidation of Coldplay's strengths, particularly their skill at crafting surging, widescreen epics. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends Play

When Coldplay sampled Kraftwerk on their third album, X&Y, it was a signifier for the British band, telegraphing their classicist good taste while signaling how they prefer the eternally hip to the truly adventurous; it was stylish window dressing for soft arena rock. Hiring Brian Eno to produce the bulk of their fourth album, Viva la Vida, is another matter entirely. Eno pushes them, not necessarily to experiment but rather to focus and refine, to not leave their comfort zone but to find some tremulous discomfort within it. In his hands, this most staid of bands looks to shake things up, albeit politely, but such good manners are so inherent to Coldplay's DNA that they remain courteous even when they experiment. With his big-budget production, Eno has a knack for amplifying an artist's personality, as he allows bands to be just as risky as they want to be -- which is quite a lot in the case of U2 and James and even Paul Simon, but not quite so much with Coldplay. And yet this gentle encouragement -- he's almost a kindly uncle giving his nephews permission to rummage through his study -- pays great dividends for Coldplay, as it winds up changing the specifics without altering the core. They wind up with the same self-styled grandiosity; they've just found a more interesting way to get to the same point.
Gone are Chris Martin's piano recitals and gone are the washes of meticulously majestic guitar, replaced by orchestrations of sound, sometimes literally consisting of strings but usually a tapestry of synthesizers, percussion, organs, electronics, and guitars that avoid playing riffs. Gone too are simpering schoolboy ballads like "Fix You," and along with them the soaring melodies designed to fill arenas. In fact, there are no insistent hooks to be found anywhere on Viva la Vida, and there are no clear singles in this collection of insinuatingly ingratiating songs. This reliance on elliptical melodies isn't off-putting -- alienation is alien to Coldplay -- and this is where Eno's guidance pays off, as he helps sculpt Viva la Vida to work as a musical whole, where there are long stretches of instrumentals and where only "Strawberry Swing," with its light, gently infectious melody and insistent rhythmic pulse, breaks from the album's appealingly meditative murk. Whatever iciness there is to the sound of Viva la Vida is warmed by Martin's voice, but the music is by design an heir to the earnest British art rock of '80s Peter Gabriel and U2 -- arty enough to convey sober intelligence without seeming snobby, the kind of album that deserves to take its title from Frida Kahlo and album art from Eugene Delacroix. That Delacroix painting depicts the French Revolution, so it does fit that Martin tones down his relentless self-obsession -- the songs aren't heavy on lyrics and some are shockingly written in character -- which is a development as welcome as the expanded sonic palette. Martin's refined writing topics may be outpaced by the band's guided adventure, but they're both indicative that Coldplay are desperate to not just strive for the title of great band -- a title they seem to believe that they're to the manor born -- but to actually burrow into the explorative work of creating music. And so the greatest thing Coldplay may have learned from Eno is his work ethic, as they demonstrate a focused concentration throughout this tight album -- it's only 47 minutes yet covers more ground than X&Y and arguably A Rush of Blood to the Head -- that turns Viva la Vida into something quietly satisfying. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Parachutes Play

The London foursome Coldplay were early critics' darlings in their native U.K., showcasing melodic pop on a slew of EP releases and constant live shows just after the spark of the new millennium. Not as heavy as Radiohead or snobbish as Oasis, Coldplay were revealed on Parachutes as a band of young musicians still honing their sweet harmonies. Combining bits of distorted guitar riffs and swishing percussion, Parachutes was a delightful introduction and also quickly indicated the reason why this album earned Coldplay a Mercury Music Prize nomination in fall 2000. Frontman Chris Martin's lyrical wordplay is feminist in the manner of Geneva's Andrew Montgomery, but far more withered. The imagery captured on Parachutes is exquisitely dark and artistically abrasive, and the entire composition is tractable thanks to gauzy acoustics and airy percussion. Coldplay's indie rock inclinations are also obvious, especially on songs such as "Don't Panic" and "Shiver," but it's the dream pop soundscapes captured on "High Speed" and "We Never Change" that illustrate the band's dynamic passion. This basic pop was surely a refreshing effort in the face of big productions like the Spice Girls and Westlife. Parachutes deserved the accolades it received because it followed the general rule when introducing decent pop songs: keep the emotion genuine and real. And Coldplay did that without hesitation. ~ MacKenzie Wilson, Rovi

A Rush of Blood to the Head Play

After touring in support of their debut album, Parachutes, Coldplay was personally and professionally exhausted. Frontman Chris Martin insisted he was dry; by the time they closed their European tour in summer 2001, he hadn't written a song in months. The U.K. music press immediately pounced on the idea of Coldplay calling it quits, but somewhere lurked the beauty of "In My Place." The spirit and soul of this ballad allowed Coldplay to pull it together to make a second album. What came from such anguish and inquisition was A Rush of Blood to the Head. Coldplay has surely let it all go on this record. Acoustics are drowned out by Jon Buckland's riveting guitar work, and vocally, Martin has sharpened his falsetto, refining his haunting delivery. It's a strong album; you can feel, hear, and touch the blood, sweat, and tears behind each song, and that's exactly what Coldplay was going for. Co-producer Ken Nelson and mixer Mark Pythain (the team behind the blissful beauty of Parachutes) allowed Coldplay to make an album that's initially inaccessible, but that's what makes it intriguing. Lush melodies and a heartbreak behind the songs are there, but also a newfound confidence. From the delicate, shimmery classic "In My Place" to the piano surge of "The Scientist," Coldplay exudes an honest passion. The disco haze of "Daylight" and the love-drunk ballad "Green Eyes" are divine examples of solid lyrical arrangements, but "Politik" and the stunning guitar-driven "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" project a nervy edge to the band. Echoes of early post-punk showcase Coldplay's ballsy musicianship. Don't fret -- it's not exactly rock & roll, but Radiohead, Echo & the Bunnymen, and the Smiths aren't exactly rock & roll either, and they're well loved. "Yellow" didn't follow the rock formula, but it sold well, and similarly A Rush of Blood to the Head might not instantly grab listeners, but it's not tailored that way. It pushes you to look beyond dreamy vocals for a musical inner core. Regardless of the band still being in their mid-twenties, they've made an amazing record, and if it ends up being their last, A Rush of Blood to the Head didn't sugarcoat anything. It's a bittersweet design no matter what. ~ MacKenzie Wilson, Rovi

God Put a Smile Upon Your Face [Australia CD] Play

As if 2002 wasn't monumental enough for Coldplay with the success of their second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2003 was equally amazing thanks to singles like "The Scientist" and "Clocks" and the band's live CD/DVD set. To continue on in its classic modest fashion, the band released the God Put a Smile Upon Your Face EP just weeks after Live 2003. Coldplay enthusiasts should be pleased with this British import of B-sides and rarities, but for total completists, this EP matches the Japanese version of Clocks with the exception of the title track. If "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" hasn't been on repeat play already, listening to this little gem is worthy enough to merit such an effort. Other highlights include the juicy pop number "Crests of Waves" and the haunting live version of "Yellow," which was specially recorded in December 2001 and broadcast on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic. "Murder" and "Animals" are traditional Coldplay tracks, for they combine the lilting sentiments of Parachutes and the raw conscience of A Rush of Blood to the Head. Another standout release from the London foursome. [Videos for "Clocks" and "In My Place" are also included.] ~ MacKenzie Wilson, Rovi

Brothers & Sisters Play

The Brothers & Sisters EP was originally released in 1999 and only available as an import. Coldplay were mere babies when recording the three songs found here; however, the sophistication that would soon be Parachutes was already coming into form. Before Coldplay had a record deal in the States, they were primarily a singles band in the U.K. Next to the Safety and Blue Room EPs, Brothers & Sisters is one of the many that made them a favorite among the college and indie rock crowds across Europe. From the cold acoustic guitars and Chris Martin's icy vocals on the title track to the more dark and subdued "Easy to Please," one could sense that Coldplay would do something big. Whether they broke in America or not, they were still going to matter. Completists already know that, and Brothers & Sisters is mostly for them. ~ MacKenzie Wilson, Rovi

The Blue Room Play

The Blue Room EP is Coldplay's first release for Parlophone. The limited-edition five-track piece is well-crafted with lush harmonies and Martin's harking vocals reflect common dream pop melodies similar to Gene frontman Martin Rossiter. "Such a Rush" is outstanding. ~ MacKenzie Wilson, Rovi

Limited Edition Tour Pack Play

A limited-edition released as a tie-in to Coldplay's 2009 tour -- hence the name Tour Pack -- this set combines all of the band's first four albums in one package offered at a bargain-basement price. There is no extra material, and the packaging is pretty perfunctory but this is an easy, dirt-cheap way to get all of Coldplay's albums at once. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
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