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 lovedrunk 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 weren't exactly rock & roll either, and they were 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 sugar coat anything. It's a bittersweet design no matter
Aidin Vaziri, Amazon.com
Coldplay required a lifetime
to make their wonderfully assured debut,
Parachutes. But it took less than
two years for the moody British quartet to deliver a masterful follow-up.
As a band Coldplay have advanced to a stage where they outshine nearly
every one of their rivals in terms of imagination and emotional pull. A
Rush of Blood to the Head is a soulful, exhilarating journey, moving from
the cathartic rock of "Politik" to the hushed tones of "Green Eyes"
without once breaking its mesmerizing spell. Singer Chris Martin takes his
voice on soaring flights, reaching places only Jeff Buckley previously
dared to go. And the music is nearly flawless, a persuasive cross between
Pink Floyd and the Verve. Even if they haven't come up with another
"Yellow," you would be hard-pressed to care. This is exquisite stuff.
Like the best rock bands, Coldplay revels in drama. But unlike most platinum-selling acts, their appeal is cerebral rather than visceral -- at times, the band's music seems more suited to cathedrals than rock clubs, thanks in part to Chris Martin's ethereal voice and the sweeping lines that emanate from Jonny Buckland's guitar. Oddly, the portent never seems to weigh down Coldplay's melodies, which sent their hits "Yellow" and "Trouble" (from the multi-platinum previous album,
Parachutes) soaring. On their follow-up, A Rush of Blood to the Head, the quartet largely pick up where they left off, although the disc does have its share of sonic deviations -- notably the opener, "Politik," which seethes more than it soothes, trailing angry guitar wails and palpable anger on Martin's part. "A Whisper" traverses different terrain -- Floyd-ian space-pop -- at similarly high speed, its beats swirling like comets across a vast dub-wise universe. Fans drawn to the intimate tone of "Yellow," however, still have plenty of chances to luxuriate: "The Scientist," which is carried by a deceptively simple piano line, beckons ever so softly; the lovelorn "Warning Sign" has a comparably lilting, heartstring-tugging theme. Coldplay may wear a pretty face, but that does not, thankfully, mask an empty
Boyce, CMJ New Music Report,
778, September 2, 2002
Listening to Coldplay's A Rush Of Blood To The Head is a bittersweet experience; the band's signature brand of mope-rock teeters precariously between disheartened ("Warning Sign") and optimistic ("In My Place," "Daylight"), but that's what makes thisn foursome one of the U.K.'s best. Frontman Chris Martin has mastered the art of yanking listener's heartstrings with his stunning voice and reflective lyrics, but Coldplay never leaves them feeling totally dejected (listen to "Clocks," for example). While Rush Of Blood would be the ideal soundtrack for waving goodbye to a true love from a bus window before disappearing forever (see "The Scientist"), there is a cavernous beauty to this album's melodic depression that can't be denied. Take the ambitious closer "Amsterdam" for example. Martin, at his most vulnerable, sings, "I know I'm dead on the surface/ but I am screaming underneath." Then, during the song's closing crescendo, Coldplay's tone shifts from somber to spiritual and Martin's hopefulness is born again. "Stood on the edge/ tied to the noose/ but you came along and you cut me loose," he wails. That's nothing if not sincere. Put down the pills, Prozac nation. Your voice has
Jane Stevenson, Toronto
Music, August 27, 2002
After their startling 2000 debut
Parachutes, this British band -- who followed the sensitive rock footsteps of such acts as Travis and Radiohead -- return with a bolder-sounding, more experimental record.
Angst-ridden singer Chris Martin suitably emotes over 11 songs full of piano and strings, while noodling guitarist Jon Buckland proves once again why he's really the group's secret weapon on such standouts as In My Place, God Put A Smile Upon Your Face, Daylight and Warning Sign.
Lyricist Martin's fears about death and love and just general paranoia make their way into the group's sweeping, soul-baring music.
Reportedly, Echo &The Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch also acted as consultant during the group's Liverpool recording sessions -- and sang backup vocals on parts of the new record. His influence can be heard on such pop masterpieces as Clocks and Daylight.
Elsewhere, Coldplay dabble in folk-country on the stripped-down Green Eyes, and seek out more experimental arrangements on such songs as Politik, and the slow-building A Whisper and Amsterdam.
New Musical Express
Chris Martin has been doing a lot of thinking. While everyone else was digesting Coldplay's debut album, 'Parachutes', Martin was already asking difficult questions of both himself and his craft. He wondered whether Coldplay had the depth to improve on the concise, melancholic pop of their first set. Could they widen the picture? Did they have the wherewithal to achieve the artistic step-up that their forefathers Radiohead and U2 had made at a comparable crossroads on the long-haul towards international
Of himself he simply asked, did he have more to say beyond lovelorn abandon? 'A Rush Of Blood To The Head' answers all these queries with a resounding affirmative. It's an album of outstanding natural beauty, an organic, wholesome work. On the album's opening 'Politik', Martin challenges the group to "give me real, don't give me fake", and Coldplay manage to build something boldly beautiful from these honourable intentions. The songs are adventurous, the concept honest and brave.
It's like discovering a precocious nipper has grown into a handsome, questing adult. Coldplay have been on a hungry voyage of discovery on the way to 'A Rush...', sucking up new influences - from Echo And The Bunnymen to Pink Floyd - and honing a wide-eyed philosophy to accompany this heavier sound. 'Parachutes' was like an earnest missive to an unrequited love, and while Martin's still posting those love letters, he's also weighing up mortality here. Love, life, death are the muses: a solid conceptual foundation for any record, but also a lofty place to fall on one's arse from. Happily, Coldplay take no such tumble.
Its closest relative is Radiohead's 'The Bends', the album that secured the notion that Radiohead had more in their locker than 'Creep'. Coldplay similarly needed to put 'Yellow' to bed and, just as 'The Bends' opened with the raging 'Planet Telex', 'A Rush...' kicks off with a discordant howl several evolutionary steps ahead of 'Yellow', 'Politik'. Guitars and keyboards mash together in a two note blur, until everything suddenly drops from the mix and Martin is alone at his piano. "Look at Earth from outer space," he sings, his voice more resonant than previously, "Everyone must find their place." The map of the album is revealed there in that opening
The search for one's place in life dictates proceedings. On 'Clocks', grand possibilities are logged as an aching, repetitive piano riff spirals. The brooding title track alludes darkly to our fragility as the air bruises with scattered guitar cracks provided by Jonny Buckland's understated, intuitive playing. The eastern-tinged psychedelia of 'Daylight' - or 'The Cutter', as elderly Bunnymen fans may prefer to call it - broods mysteriously until a terrifically uplifting chorus blows in and Martin fair quivers with joy at the power of nature. Throughout, the singer portrays himself as if in a constant state of ephinany, sometimes wondrous, sometimes grim.
Indeed, sometimes both wondrous and grim at the same time, as on 'God Put A Smile Upon Your Face'. Over a pounding garage tattoo Martin poses a deep, mortality-based teaser ("where do we go from here?"), asserts some self-belief ("God gave me style, God gave me grace") and then hits upon the bottom line as the song's mood suddenly improves with another fat and glorious chorus: "Yeah, when you work it out I'm the same as you....your guess is as good as mine." Two-fingers to critics such as Alan McGee who questioned the band's credentials to rock, perhaps? This, Martin is saying, is me, and that's as authentic as the next man.
And sometimes that man is a bit soppy. So what? Nobody does soppy quite as tunefully as Chris Martin, as the stadium-sized, lighters-in-the-air, tears-down-your-partner's-cheeks love song, 'The Scientist', proves. Like an Embrace super-ballad, only in tune: we may be hearing quite a lot of this in the higher echelons of the chart run-down.
Will 'A Rush...' turn Coldplay into global superheros? A question for neither listener nor band, but for marketing department. Coldplay did the hard part. They made a second album that's significantly better than their first. It's a belter. Coldplay are standing on their own eight feet. What will they ask of us next?
September 9, 2002
Though my hopes were briefly raised by a frazzled Christopher Lloyd in 1985, it's painfully obvious now that time travel doesn't exist as a human technological capability. This being overwhelmingly the case, I will try my best to transport with words, and paint a picture of another time-- a time ever so slightly more innocent, when terrorism wasn't being used as an excuse to crush civil liberties and drop bombs on mustachioed megalomaniacs. So, drag that bottle of Orbitz out of the back of the closet, put X-Files on the VHS, and journey back with me to the year 2000.
It was a wondrous time-- we were still fascinated by the three zeros that had signified the birth of the new millennium, and many were relieved to have escaped judgment from an infinite, intangible being. Then, toward the end of the year, we began to hear rumblings from the many-headed hydra of UK rock journalism that some amazing new music had come to usher us into the New World. This music was deemed fascinating, uncompromising and utterly prizeworthy by our English brethren, who spoke in hushed tones of how it was to be the coming of "the next Radiohead," or perhaps more tellingly, "the next Travis."
This new music was produced by a band of four affable blue-collar lads from Europe's island neighbor who called themselves Coldplay, and before you knew it, there was no escaping their lead-off single, "Yellow", as it burned itself into the national consciousness via extensive radio exposure and ABC promotional spots. I, myself, was never too taken with that single, though I openly admit to enjoying the album it was culled from,
Parachutes. It was innocuous, to be sure, but it was also honestly rendered, and the opening three songs, effortless and hummable as they were, were hard to deny.
Two years and a veritable avalanche of press later, A Rush of Blood to the Head has Coldplay taking a second shot at it, and to be perfectly honest, what they throw at the wall doesn't stick quite as well. I will credit them where it's due: they've admirably eschewed cloning their debut album, a path that would have been all too easy to take given that record's critical and commercial success. But while the sound of this album is more expansive, the influences a bit less obvious, and the approach more varied, the guys forgot to tote along their initial strength: the songs.
Atmospherically, a couple of these tracks are remarkable-- particularly "Daylight", with its swooping guitar and synth lines. Even its strings, which echo melodies from Suede's last album, lend a sense of drama to a song that otherwise wouldn't hold much. Midtempo non-rockers "Green Eyes" and "Warning Sign" stretch the most obvious thread back to
Parachutes with their lovelorn lyrics and slightly more developed melodies. And there are also a couple of "memo to listener: we can rock, too!" moments, specifically "A Whisper" and the lite-apocalypse of opener "Politik". The latter essentially takes the blueprint of "Yellow"-- namely, the slamming, repetitive strumming of clean electric guitar-- and builds a more spacious song from it, one with more rattle and hum, but less melodic substance. Martin's double-tracked vocals hover curiously low in the mix and the band thrashes earnestly, but all the listener really comes away with is a nebular dustcloud and the sense that Coldplay want to break out of their box.
Part of the blame for moments like these rests on producer Ken Nelson, who doesn't seem to know what to do with the band's expanded sound this time out. He alternately dries up the quietest passages and drenches the louder sections with Martin Hannett-sized reverb tides. It takes a lot of discretion to handle that sound, and the folly of Nelson and the band (who co-produced) often comes at the expense of the vocals, which frequently get lost in the
And that's a shame because vocalist Chris Martin has improved since the band's not-so-humble beginnings-- his voice is dramatically fuller than in the past, and he falters less on the higher notes. But, of course, he's still far from foolproof: at times, his attempts to broaden his palette don't pan out, such as during the regrettable midsection of "Clocks", where he barely bothers to add a melody to the central lyric "nothing else compares." To his credit, he does manage a pretty good verse melody here, but then he oddly shies away from what should be the hook at the end, tentatively trailing off as though he's not sure it's good enough.
That could very well be the case, too, as it's been widely posited that Coldplay nearly didn't make this album at all, fearing that they didn't have the depth to provide an adequate follow-up to their debut. I'll avoid the obvious cheap shot there and instead offer that they indeed still might.
Parachutes proved that Coldplay have at least a nascent songwriting capability, and A Rush of Blood to the Head shows them testing themselves musically, so it seems logical that if their third album were to combine those strengths they might finally start to sound like the band the UK press is always going on about.
After over a half-dozen listens, I still haven't taken anything away from A Rush of Blood to the Head (by contrast, I recognized
Parachutes' "Don't Panic" for the relatively tight song it is after hearing it once), and my girl, who was much more a fan of
Parachutes than I was, sums it up as "boring." She's pretty much got it right. Coldplay may claw their way back from this, but it'll be a pretty steep climb.
Sheffield, RollingStone, 905, September 19, 2002
Coldplay arrived in 2000 with the smash power ballad "Yellow," an instant classic of trembling guitar ripples, ridiculous stargazing lyrics, anthemic choruses and the forlorn vocals of Chris Martin. The guy's voice sounded like a puppy kicked down a flight of stairs, one step at a time, and then kicked back up the flight of stairs. But even as he bravely flirted with outright dippiness ("Look at the stars/Look how they shine for you" -- egads), his heartfelt yodel won you over. Like similar-minded U.K. bands such as Travis and Starsailor, Coldplay took the basic sound of Radiohead and pumped it full of emotion, using those loud-quiet-loud guitar textures to soothe and console you, rather than to alienate your jangled nerves. Sweet boys, really. Martin isn't your typical rock star, either -- he proudly admits he doesn't drink (dislikes the taste) and didn't start having sex until after he'd written his first hit. But then, "Yellow" isn't a very rock & roll color, is it? Sheila E. had a great song called "Yellow," but aside from a submarine here or an electrical banana there, rockers usually think it's too boring to even sing about. Coldplay might be out of step with rock orthodoxy, but their sheer conviction has made them a global sensation.
Parachutes, was perhaps too mellow for its own good, too sedate in its good-vibes homogeneity to stand up to repeated listens. But A Rush of Blood to the Head is a nervier, edgier, thoroughly surprising album. The guitars are still full of Pink Floyd, but the band has figured out how to let loose and rock out, something Floyd never learned. The same influences are here: the Radiohead of The Bends and OK Compute, the U2 of October and War, the Smiths of The Queen Is Dead. But where
Parachutes was the clumsy diary of a high-strung kid, A Rush of Blood sounds more like a band with the confidence to test its own limits. Jonny Buckland comes into his own as a guitar hero, while Martin has grown gratifyingly adult in his sobs and growls. He's still got plenty of angst to vent, though, wailing about death ("Amsterdam"), war ("A Rush of Blood to the Head") and lost love (damn near everything).
"God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" is the slinkiest and best thing Coldplay have ever done -- while the acoustic-guitar figure may be a little too transparently based on Roxy Music's "Out of the Blue," the band whips it into a head-spinning trip of aggressively strummed paranoid folk rock. The folkie shuffle "Green Eyes" sounds like hippie Christian singalong time, but it works, while the fantastic piano ballad "The Scientist" is an overt sequel to "Yellow" ("Let's go back to the star") with a cataclysmic falsetto finale that could raise every hair on the back of your neck. Buckland shines in excellent psychedelic rockers such as "A Whisper," "Clocks" and "Daylight." When you're not in the mood, Coldplay are still too mellow: In the soggier songs, such as the unfortunate first single, "In My Place," the choked vocals can make Coldplay sound like nothing more than a trans-Atlantic breed of Counting Crow. But with A Rush of Blood, Coldplay do more than fulfill the promise of "Yellow" -- they surpass everything they've done up to this point, making first-rate guitar rock with some real emotional protein on its
and single "Yellow" were some of the most irresistible ear candy of 2000,
and the rookies of the year have returned with an equally palatable, if
slightly steelier, sophomore collection.
Here and there, as on the album opener "Politik," with its seesawing
major/minor crash of guitars, the London-bred group displays a hitherto
unheard tendency toward truly rocking out. But the majority of the album
won't ruffle those who were captivated by Coldplay's acute melodic acumen,
which remains the band's greatest strength. Tracks like "Daylight," the
acoustic-based "Green Eyes," and the set-closing "Amsterdam" will all
appeal to those still jaundiced from the group's initial hit. Front man
Chris Martin continues to mature vocally, and keeps his soaring Thom
Yorke-style swoon in check for most of the proceedings. In all, a very
tastefully crafted, tuneful, and affecting piece of work with a band that
is still just beginning to tap its enormous potential.