With a wash of celestial keyboards, “Square One” establishes the pattern of much of the album. Keyboards suggest a spacey theme, a soundtrack to the guys shooting through galaxies in space suits. The song goes in an entirely different direction at the end, but with earnestly empathetic lyrics. This continues on “What If”, wherein the band’s guitarist (pop quiz: anybody know his name offhand?) begins to assert himself, as he will throughout the album. “White Shadows” manages to cross “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” with “Shiny Happy People”, and while we’re at it, “Fix You” is the fourth song in a row with the same basic structure (a plaintive keyboard, a solo vocal) but brings all the pieces together for the Millennial generation’s very own “Everybody Hurts”. “Talk” is catchy, probably because it’s based on a Kraftwerk melody, but the first real winner is the title track, which moves from the pattern with a chorus that almost seems psychedelic, or even Beatlesque.
“Speed Of Sound” rewrites “Clocks” from the last album, just as “A Message” delivers more of the general encouragement. “Low” takes another step away from the norm, with a driving beat that eventually the band gives into, resulting in a glorious explosion of power chords that thrill. That clears the way a bit for “The Hardest Part”, with its almost country feel and infectious piano—so much so that one wonders if it would make a better instrumental, to let the melody breathe a little more. By now the album is starting to get a little long, and while “Swallowed In The Sea” has all the makings of the finale, they save the big finish for “Twisted Logic”, a much better choice for an ending and a decent showcase for Jonny Buckland (answer to quiz in previous paragraph). But even that’s not the end—“Till Kingdom Come” is the requisite hidden track, written in the style of Johnny Cash, and maybe he might have recorded it.
While all this may appear dismissive, there’s no denying that X&Y is enjoyable, as long as you don’t try to get too much out of it. Or, if you’re feeling down and susceptible to pep talks from sensitive Brits, maybe it will pull you out of those doldrums. But if we’re supposed to take them as seriously as they want to be taken, they would need the shakeup that somebody like, say, Brian Eno would provide.
Coldplay X&Y (2005)—3