So here it is then, the only team in town worth talking about. People looking at them to fail, senior management worried about a lack of return on their investment and just what is up with the Big Unit? Yep, those Yankees sure are proving puzzling. Meanwhile, what of Coldplay’s third release as they leave the early innings of their career?
It might be a convenient comparison but EMI will be hoping to shift some seriously big units of X&Y, what with the delay in its release and the fall in share price. It’s enough to make your head spin or, at least in Chris Martin’s case, to label the label’s (!) shareholders “the greatest evil of the modern world.” We’ve been here before, of course, when Oasis made a claim for world domination with their third album Be Here Now. Instead, the record was inspired by cocaine, sounded overproduced and only now are Manchester’s finest finding their feet once again. Three was not the magic number – talk about pressure.
And pressure is a constant consideration in Martin’s mind. Am I good enough? Are we worthy enough to ask the public to listen to us? This will be our best album ever. This will be our last album ever. You know the drill. And the drill with X&Y is the sound of a band becoming increasingly comfortable with themselves and the world in which they live. This time around, love and paranoia pour out of the record, with Martin effectively singing directly to Gwyneth Paltrow on “What If” (‘What if you don’t want me there by your side/What if you don’t want me there in the light’) and “Fix You” (‘Tears stream down your face/I promise you I will learn from my mistakes. and I will fix you’). The rest of us are virtual voyeurs, simply grateful to be part of the process. If anything, there’s an old fashioned sensibility to X&Y in that you could quite easily permeate 7 or 8 singles from it. “Speed Of Sound” has been and gone – though it is to “Clocks” as album opener “Square One” is to “Politik” from the last record – yet finding filler is a tough task.
X&Y is by no means perfect. The specter of U2 looms large throughout and Martin’s turn of phrase isn’t quite what it once was. The thrill of hearing ‘shoot an apple off my head’ has been replaced by rhyming ‘balloon’ with ‘spoon’ and ‘human race’ with ‘outer space’. But these are minor quibbles for when X&Y clicks, it veritably soars and you’ll do well to see out 2005 by hearing better songs than “White Shadows,” “Swallowed In The Sea” and hidden track “Til Kingdom Come” (originally written for Johnny Cash). Whilst X&Y may be no Grand Slam, the bases most certainly are loaded. Chris Martin, it’s down to you to hit it out of the park.