My friend Steve McPherson brought Jon Pareles' screed against Coldplay ("The Case Against Coldplay" New York Times, June 5, 2005) to my attention the other day.
Whatever you think of Coldplay, "the most insufferable band of the decade" is inaccurate to the point of ridiculousness. If nothing else, Pareles' much-read article will give music writers who may have felt luke-warm about the release a jumping off point for more passionate criticism of the album, if for no other reason than to defend it against extreme attacks it probably doesn't deserve.
The New York Times' pan of the album is one of those rock reviews that make you wonder, "What did Coldplay ever do to Jon Pareles?"
Though the album may not be at the top of the majority of 2005 Top 10 Lists (it likely won't even make mine) it's really not that bad.
Pareles' article actually inspired me to procure the album a day early just so I could be in a better position to respond. (That, and my girlfriend being a huge Coldplay fan, I thought having the album in my sweaty little hands the day before most of America could get at it might impress her, which it did.)
Read Steve McPherson's "The Case Against The Case Against Coldplay" for a few articulations of the instances where Pareles experienced momentary lapses of reason.
Then make up your own mind even before purchasing it yourself. XFM is streaming the entire album on its listening post here.
Also see The London Times review, which is somewhat kinder. And the Pitchfork review, which is rather indifferent.
What do I think of the album? At times I feel like Coldplay was trying to make an update of the Beatles' Abbey Road (Track 2, "What If" has a near sonic and emotional impact of "You Never Give Me Your Money.") It's clear by song 3, "White Shadows" (my favorite song on the album so far) that the band isn't taking any chances. But what's wrong with that? U2 took no chances with How To Dismantle an Automic Bomb either, and that doesn't make that album bad. Though as the London Times suggests, "X&Y could have been so much more -- if they had tried just a little less. " I do dig the Kraftwerk quotation (from "Computer Love") in "Talk." And "Speed of Sound" as a single is as good as any, though I have no idea what it means. (I didn't understand what "Beautiful Day" by U2 was about either, but as a critical listener I was well aware of how well it worked as a song.)
If you buy the album from iTunes or another online music service (or get burned copies of the album from friends as I'm sure many of you will) here is the set of links the band recommends you check on in the liner notes.
- National Resources Defense Council - www.nrdc.org
- Amnesty International - www.amnesty.org
- Environmental News Network - www.enn.com
- Greenpeace - www.greenpeace.org
- Water Aid UK - www.wateraid.org.uk
- Crisis (fighting for hope for the homeless) - www.crisis.org.uk
- Planet Save - www.planetsave.com
- Future Forests - www.futureforests.com/coldplay
- World Vision - www.worldvision.org
- Oxfam International - www.oxfam.org
The White Stripes have been fairing better with reviews of their wonderfully-titled new album, Get Behind Me Satan (also released Tuesday.) Listen to the entire album streamed here courtesy of MP3.com.
My early favorite? "My Doorbell." (When you gonna ring it?)
Pitchfork calls Get Behind Me "confounding. " So far, I'm liking it better than Elephant. Need a few more listens and familiarity before I make up my mind.
If you've heard these albums (or not) and have an opinion, leave it in the comments.