Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Fine Line Between Creating A Distinctive Sound And Being Repetitive Blurs With A Rush Of Blood To The Head!

The Good: Nice vocals, Good instrumental accompaniment, Easy to listen to
The Bad: Very repetitive sound
The Basics: Listen to the radio, when you hear a Coldplay song, if you like it, you'll like this album.

A close friend of mine recently became obsessed with the music video to "The Scientist" and after a single viewing of the video, I could see why. The music was haunting and the images that accompanied it was disturbing in a slow, drunken, foreboding way. So, when we sat down and listened to A Rush of Blood To The Head, I was expecting pretty much the same.

And that's exactly what it delivered.

Coldplay's supposedly alternative album A Rush Of Blood To The Head is essentially the latest in rock/light rock. Just as once Steve Winwood was considered rock and pushing the envelope of music on the Top 40 stations, so too do I suspect Coldplay will end up: relegated to the Light Rock stations in ten years. But for now? Now, Coldplay is front and center.

Coldplay's sound is essentially light rock music that balances smooth male vocals evenly with piano, guitar and drums. Despite songs like the opener ("Politik") that attempts to have more of a loud, thrashing sound with the drums and bass strumming loudly over the imploring vocals, most of the songs on the album are like the slow, haunting begging of "The Scientist." Even "Politik" fits the mold of the Coldplay sound of being more melodic than shocking. This is music to be hypnotized by.

A Rush Of Blood To The Head is filled with songs that are yearning for something. "In My Place" is about a person begging to be found, begging for relevance. "The Scientist" is filled with ache for love to be requited. The radio-friendly "Clocks" may be seen as a search to try to understand the world.

The thing is, these songs sound good. In fact, all of the songs on the album sounds good. Individually, any of these tracks feel like they could be Top 40 hits. The problem is, they all sound alike. Not identical, mind you. For instance, the upbeat "God Put A Smile On Upon Your Face" (which I'm wondering why J.J. Abrams used for the sex scene in the second season of Alias - did he listen to the lyrics?!), sounds nothing like the fast paced but mournful "Daylight," save that the lead singer is clearly the same. But the up-tempo, yet muted drums and strings do have echoes of "Politik" in them and foreshadow the sound of the later track "A Whisper."

What makes tracks like "The Scientist" so wonderful is that Coldplay clearly has a decent sized vocabulary, so we aren't plagued by a predictable rhyme scheme on track after track, line after line. Instead, the level of diction is high and the album wears well time after time, assuming the listener is really a fan of the Coldplay sound. The lyrics are great, like the description of trying to negotiate a turbulent relationship, "I was just guessing / At numbers and figures / pulling the puzzles apart" ("The Scientist"). How else would you describe love? There aren't calculations, it's a mystery we investigate and turn over and dissect and it still remains mysterious on so many levels. Fortunately, the lead singer of the band has the ability to work his mouth around all sorts of words and sounds and blend them organically into the music.

Most of the songs have a weird folksy sound to them, like "Green Eyes" which is essentially acoustic, relying solely on the guitar to accompany the vocals until it opens up with a tambourine. The entire album sounds like a collection of U2's slower, intimate works. A Rush Of Blood To The Head is a collection of songs with decent insight into the human condition masquerading under a sleepy sound. "Warning Sign," for example, talks about "telling you in the loudest tones" without any change in its muted, harmonic sound.

The melodies of all of the songs on the album are beautiful and catchy, but they tend to blend together. I am still miffed by why this is called "alternative." Maybe because, unlike most popular music today, it's not crap. In that way, I suppose it is. It still sounds like light rock to me. The weakest track is almost-unending sounding "Warning Sign" and the best song is the eerie, beautiful and distinctive "The Scientist."

For other mellow rock albums, please visit my reviews of:
Painted Desert Serenade - Joshua Kadison
The Very Best Of Burt Bacharach - Burt Bacharach
Aladdin Sane - David Bowie


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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