in Retrospecticus

Retrospecticus: Coldplay

Here we go again. Unlike Weezer and My Morning Jacket, Coldplay only has three albums to their name, with the fourth release due out tomorrow. So I guess I’ll try to spend a little more time with each album that John and Colin did, even though that will probably be really boring. Enough set-up, let’s take a look back at the career of these pioneers of wuss rock:

Parachutes (2000)

When asked about Parachutes, Coldplay front man Chris Martin said, “We know that’s terrible music.” While it seems that both the band and many of its fans dismiss this album, I maintain that it is a very solid and enjoyable release, probably the one I listen to the most from these English rockers.

Coldplay’s debut album was as laid back as it comes. Certainly inspired by similar alt-rock bands like Radiohead, the greatest weakness of Parachutes is that it doesn’t really have that distinct Coldplay charm that is so prevalent in later releases. However, this does not take away from the simple pleasure that these songs invoke.

The album spawned four successful singles: “Shiver,” “Trouble,” “Yellow,” and my favorite, “Don’t Panic.” The rest of the tracks are equally mellow and enjoyable. You still hear the songs occasionally on T.V. and in movies. At least in Zach Braff movies. Maybe that’s the key; maybe this music is for the people that have, at some point, seen something with Zach Braff.

But don’t let that discourage you. If you like Coldplay’s later stuff, or even an album like The Bends, this is worth a shot. If you remember my CAT on this, you may have noticed that the score is lower (if only I did it after we stopped scoring those). This is because I realize a lot of people won’t be able to get into this album. If you’re one of the lucky few who can, well, good on ya.

Favorite Tracks: “Don’t Panic,” “Sparks,” “Everything’s Not Lost”

A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)

In just two short years, Coldplay went from semi-derivative alt-rock to something very much their own.

A Rush of Blood to the Head birthed the most popular Coldplay song to date, a little piano-driven number called “Clocks.” While it certainly has been over-played, it’s easy to see just why it was so popular.

This album delivers a juicy variety of music, from the poppy “In My Place” to the epic “Politik,” which opens the album. Utilizing more instrument, especially the piano, the band clearly used this album to show their wide musical range.

The only criticism of this album I’ve ever heard is that same that I hear of Parachutes, that it is too mellow. Maybe you have to be in a mood for this kind of music, but I must be in that mood a hell of a lot of the time. Almost every track here is really fantastic, I don’t know how else to put it.

A Rush of Blood to the Head birthed four successful singles (the music video for “The Scientist” is especially memorable). It made both Rolling Stones’ 500 Greatest Albums list and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “Definitive 200 Albums of All Time.”

A truly spectacular album that is a worthy addition to any collection.

Favorite Tracks: “In My Place,” “Clocks,” “The Scientist,” “Warning Sign”

X&Y (2005)

After the gargantuan success of their first two albums, Coldplay was one of the biggest bands in the world. Their third album, X&Y, was released three years after A Rush of Blood to the Head, and was a smashing success.

X&Y was apparently influenced both by electronic music and the “ups and downs of everyday life.” What that basically means is that this time around, synthesizers were the name of the game.

The lead single was “Speed of Sound,” a track that definitely evokes a lot of the hit “Clocks.” But, you know, more electronic. Despite what the jerks at Rolling Stone say, it’s still awesome. Sure, the band doesn’t really break as much new ground with this album, but it has a fantastic sound and a ton of catchy tunes.

X&Y was a smash success worldwide, debuting at number one in 22 countries; including, for the first time, the United States. It spawned six successful singles, such as the popular “Fix You” and “The Hardest Part.” There is a lot to love here.

Now for some trivia. The cover? It’s supposed to be “X&Y” written in Baudot code, which is something used in telegraphs. But they messed it up and it actually says either “X9Y” or “X96.” Also, the hidden track, “Til Kingdom Come,” was originally going to be song by Johnny Cash, but unfortunately he passed away before getting to record it. Finally, the “BWP” the album is dedicated to is Gwyneth Paltrow’s dad, who also passed away before the album was finished.

This album clearly draws a lot from Coldplay’s influences, such as U2 and David Bowie, while introducing their own flair. The result was another great album from the British quartet.

Favorite Tracks: “White Shadows,” “Fix You,” “A Message”

I have left out their EPs and their live album, which is unfortunate but realistically you probably already stopped reading a while ago. This brings us to Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, which is coming out in just a few hours. It’s already out in many places around the world, and the reception has been pretty good. But more on that later this week…

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