Tuesday, June 07, 2005The new Coldplay record, XY, appeared today. First it appeared on the shelf at Target, then it appeared in my stereo. I'm usually good about shopping at my local record store - where I was an employee for nearly two years - but when we're talking a savings of around five dollars on a new release, Target is hard to pass up. At any rate, Chris Martin and the boys have managed to put out a third album that is quite good. The sound is more consistent, with less movement from loud songs to soft ones. There is a dark feel, something akin to New Order or even a less-Gothic the Cure. Martin's voice and piano playing remain strong, as do the lyrics. As usual, the lyrics are somewhat vague, but a fair number of songs concern women, most likely his main squeeze Gwyneth. It's a strong release on early listenings. That's my initial take, though I won't have a final opinion until I've enjoyed repeated listenings over a protracted length of time. The liner notes still carry on about all sorts of political causes (including the tired idea of debt relief and trade barriers), but seeing World Vision listed as an organization worthy of support was refreshing and encouraging.
On the topic of Coldplay, I was talking about the band with a few friends the other night. One mentioned that Coldplay is likely the biggest band in the world right now. I'd wager that's true, but are they the best band in the world? I can't go that far. U2's last release served to remind audiences that the best rock and roll band on the planet was still a quartet of wide-eyed, take-on-the-world Irishmen. Bono may not understand the nuances of international economies (though he does so far better than Chris Martin), but he wants to help the needy and he is full of ideas. More importantly, he understands grace and he understands the Cross. And every pronunciation of the glory of God, the brokenness of man and the need to rely on and care for each other is artfully, passionately created. If we are to have rock and roll, if we are to promote the noise and the racket and the feedback, we could do far worse than U2.
Behind U2, I would suggest Wilco as the next best band on the planet. Yes, Jeff Tweedy is a married father of two still talking about his broken heart and his drinking, but he understands American music. He understands America; our impulses, our hesitations and our reservations. Wilco's music is earthy and spacy all at once, proving comfortable on both the city street and the country highway. I don't care if they are the hippest band in the country right now. I don't care if their fans are obnoxious. I've seen their concerts filled with ironic rich kids with shaggy hair and denim jackets. Minus the rich kid part, though, that's me. Wilco is American rock and roll, and it is very, very good.
Honorable mention goes to Muse. Good heavens, what a band. Falsetto vocals, classical piano and loud - extremely loud - guitars. Blows me away everytime.