It's been eleven years.
Eleven years, since a curious teenage version of me first drifted away to the sounds of an up-and-coming alt-rock band known as Coldplay. It was their sophomore effort, released to more favorable reviews then their debut--things I care and know now, but I didn't even want to find out about in 2002. All I cared about was the music. And what did I think of it back then? I thought it was one of the greatest pieces of music I had ever heard. I would play it over and over, sit in my room and sing every word with Chris Martin. This could have been because my ears were not as seasoned as they currently are, and I had not explore the vast depth music has to offer. It could have been that my teenage angst could be channeled and subdued in the beautiful melodies of Coldplay. It was beautiful, innovative, haunting, warm, bright, catchy, welcoming. So what do I think of it now?
Inevitably, there was the initial massive rush of nostalgia. The album was a warm place in my heart, and to hear that again after about ten years is an overwhelming tsunami of emotions. But past that, it's difficult to pinpoint my feelings exactly, for they might be occurring for a number of reasons. The pleasant yet somewhat dull waves of sound the album is exerting may not sound fantastic because of everything that I've heard and everything that's happened since 2002. Or it's just that I played this album to death (and when i say to death, I mean to death) that it could just never sound as it did before. Or maybe my tastes have just completely changed. The incessant, thunderous guitar chords that open the album on "Politik" didn't draw the same euphoric feeling as it had before. It felt somewhat-dare I say it?-repetitive and uninteresting. The melody does make you tap your foot, but in the end, it seems fairly safe, a word that gets tossed around a lot when talking about Coldplay. Their first album, Parachutes
, was criticized for being safe, and on "Politik" it's the same case. While it is a somewhat enjoyable listen, there's not very much substance and the melody isn't the strongest. The second track, "In My Place," falls in the same category.
But we arrive at track three, "God Put A Smile On Your Face," which is somewhat of a step forward to Coldplay. The melody and guitar leads are bluesy and more original that Coldplay could have mustered on their debut. Its length is somewhat of a burden, however, and the excitement trails off during the last minute. However, the soaring chorus and the exploration of blues-rock makes the track more successful than the others. At track four is "The Scientist," which was my second favorite off the album when I was young. It's not hard to see why-the tearjerking piano, the catchy yet recycled melody, the more raucous outro. "The Scientist" is the perfect recipe for a great-sounding piano ballad, but for this precise reason, it isn't as successful as it could have been. it comes off as robotic and formulaic, despite trying to sound the exact opposite. It's supposed to be heartbreaking and emotional, yet the unoriginality drags it down. Coldplay do have it in them to be more experimental and really run with their melodies, but "The Scientist" is a synthesized, dull ballad. The same could be said for my teenage self's favorite, "Clocks," but Coldplay seems to having much more fun with it, and the songwriting is stronger. The mysterious lyrics and excellent bridge makes "Clocks" one of the best songs on the album. The piano riff doesn't even sound too repetitive after five minutes of almost the same chord progression over and over. One of Coldplay's weakness is finding and interesting melody and repeating it to death, but "Clocks" doesn't feel like that. It's one of their strongest ballads, as opposed to the saccharine, lifeless "Green Eyes."
Another one of the more interesting tracks is the mid-tempo rock number "Warning Sign." It succeeds simply for not trying to be something it's not. Yes, it is another ballad, but it doesn't seem like it's trying to be the best song or the most classic ballad on the album; on the contrary, it feels like it's trying to fade into the background, unnoticed. When I was in love with this album, I hadn't heard its supposed beauty until after many listens. Coldplay does, however, have a problem with longwinded outros, as the one on "Warning Sign" isn't particularly clever or interesting. The song could have ended at four minutes, but decided to drag on for another minute and a half.
The track showing Coldplay's maturity the most, however, is the penultimate title track. One of the darkest sounding tracks, its lyrics also possess the most meaning. The stellar chorus sounds much like their idols, Radiohead, which isn't necessarily a bad thing--it's a masterful moment on the album, a tight, spacey, rollicking moment. The stark contrast is apparent between "A Rush Of Blood To The Head" and the great closing song "Amsterdam." It's the type of song that would play in a movie towards the end when the main character, dejected, stand out in the rain, getting soaked and you feel a pang of empathy for him. Coldplay has a knack for interesting choruses--it's also one of Chris Martin's strongest vocal performances, putting a lot of soul into the words. But around three and a half minutes, the song transforms into one of the best on the album, due to its arena-rock-ready nature; the melody really shines through, and it sounds like an amazing goodbye song at a last concert. The wind down afterward is a pretty addition, and leaves you with the satisfaction that Coldplay can write a pretty damn fine song at their best.
Would I feel the same if I had never heard this record in my life? Maybe not, or maybe I would. Maybe it just depends when I had heard this album or what other music I hadn't heard. Maybe bands like Radiohead have completely ruined Coldplay for me, and now it just sounds unoriginal and somewhat generic. If I was my naive teenage self, this album would be unquestionably one of the best I'd ever heard. Now I have mixed feelings, which might have been very different if this was my first listen. Coldplay have clearly grown on A Rush Of Blood To The Head
, shown on the title track the most clearly. They've tried to take some more risks, with varying levels of success, but only went downhill from this point. Coldplay isn't the strongest band technically, but they can write some pretty good tunes. Even if it doesn't sound as fantastic as it did eleven years ago, this album still has a special place in my heart.
Overall Rating: 3.3
God Put A Smile On Your Face
A Rush Of Blood To The Head