Review Summary: The weakest in their discography to date due to generic instrumental work
As one of the highest selling currently active music artists of all time, the name Coldplay should really command a huge amount of respect. Having lasted out so far a career spanning more than fifteen years with fifty five million sales to their name across five studio albums; the British alternative rock band can be safe in the knowledge that they have laid down a legacy that began with the release of their smash hit single Yellow that thrust them overnight into the limelight and has currently resolved with 2011's Mylo Xyloto. To take their immense success alone as indication of the quality of their music however would be incredibly narrow sighted and yet as soon as one gives either of their first two releases a listen they are extremely likely to be moved by the emotionally powerful style of music the band plays. Unfortunately if one were to listen to the lead single from 2005's X & Y they would not be getting the full experience of the band as Speed Of Sound truly captured the band at their all time low point; which continued to plague the full release. Yes, folks, this is unfortunately another case of a massively successful band that overly wore out their own sound and released a completely generic album to the masses that unfortunately devoured it eagerly, with the unlucky figure indicated as being around the mark of thirteen million.
The lyrics for this release are about as cliche'd as can be; being shallow throughout and rather one dimensional in the sense that nearly every song on this album deals in some way with Chris Martin's feelings towards love and fears with the fear of losing somebody being predominant. They are very vague with lines such as "when I was a young boy I tried to listen, don't you want to feel like that". The lyrics feel very similar on almost all of the songs and are not deep enough to feel at home being spewed from a vocalist such as Chris. Whilst on the subject of Martin's vocals a point needs addressing; which is that he has a rather small range and when he occasionally attempts to deviate from his mid-high range into a falsetto it feels completely out of touch with the rest of his work on here. Towards the end of White Shadow's he attempts to diversify his vocals a little and it works in the context of that song but these moments are not found anywhere near enough throughout this release, making for one of the worst factors of the album. Given that on the previous releases his vocals were tolerable although nothing special one would at least expect similar from this release but that is sadly not the case with the vocals on here being too boring an dull and not really giving this any feel of emotion.
Fix You is the best instrumental song on the album and manages to create a real sense of longing and sadness with some beautifully composed piano work in the background. However Chris manages to absolutely destroy this song with far too much use of his higher register on here completely butchering the first verse beyond any redemption. When the acoustic guitar comes in the song had potential to attempt to right the wrongs that have been established by the beginning of the song and almost succeeds until the electric guitar comes in and does not feel at home within this song. When this song moves into full blown rock territory it just kills off any real sense of emotion that the group had built up within the first minute and collapses in on itself. The slow tempo of The Hardest Part massively works to its advantage with a creeping two note piano line that carries it along with some hypnotic drumming and this is the one song on the entire album where everything manages to settle together. The Hardest Part stands out as one of the best tunes in the bands entire catalogue for the simple fact that everybody manages to get their acts together and write both a catchy and emotional song, especially when it shifts into some incredible falsetto singing. For once Chris manages to add to a song instead of feeling monotonous and boring within the context of it. This song even has a rather nice guitar solo that, whilst slow and nothing ground breaking, feels perfectly placed and helps to carry the song forward.
The album's sixty two minute length is another factor that leads to the failure of this album as it is just too samey to stomach in one sitting. Speed Of Sound, Low and What If could easily have been cut from the album without sacrificing any musical integrity and that may have helped add to the album as they were really terrible and forgettable bland songs. However, the band were confident in their own ability to succeed with the amount of songs they decided to cram onto the release despite the fact that most of them are completely over drawn out in spite of their four-to-five minute running times. This kills off the momentum of the album completely and is just another failure on the list of things this album did wrong. The singles also did nothing to help the album and were, aside from White Shadows, incorrectly chosen as the songs to represent the album. White Shadows in its own right is a decent enough track featuring an absolutely killer sing-a-long chorus, but Speed Of Sound was just a baffling song to even be included on the album let alone released as an indication as to any qualities the album possesses as that song lacks any form of hook to latch onto when listening to it.
X & Y in spite of its commercial success and legacy is in fact one massive failure for a band that everything they had previously touched had seemingly turned to gold. This was not a complete misfire but it had too many flaws that couldn't be ignored with the most glaring ones being the running time and the ridiculously simplified lyrics along with the samey vocal work all the way through. This is not even close to being one of the worst albums of all time, but it is so pathetically mediocre consistently that it is impossible to stomach all the way through. The songs themselves all have enough going off but there are always bowel-churning moments that destroy anything they have to offer and for this reason this is the largest failure in Coldplay's discography.