As they proved on their stellar, remarkably focused sophomore effort, A Rush of Blood to the Head,
Coldplay weren't about to be spoiled by success. But in the time since that disc's release, the band -- or, more to the point, major-domo Chris Martin -- have had to deal with a potentially more dangerous problem: a little thing called happiness. While most of the quartet's previous output has dealt with isolation, rejection, and unattainable love, X&Y
was crafted in, for lack of a better term, the Gwyneth and Apple Years -- a fact that colors many of the disc's tunes. "The Hardest Part," one of the band's typically elegiac swoonfests, finds Martin marveling at the wonders of pregnancy(!) but managing to stop himself before sinking too deeply into Jim Brickman quicksand. Lovestruck giddiness likewise rears up in the sparse bonus track "Til Kingdom Come," a gentle, folk-tinged catalog of his spouse's attributes. X&Y
isn't lyrically one-dimensional, thankfully, and musically, it's far more open-ended than Coldplay's previous full-lengths. "Square One," for instance, replaces the traditional slow build with a lurching gait propelled by Will Champion's tense post-punk drumming. Similarly, "Low," obviously inspired by the Bowie album of the same name
, slinks along with a decadent and previously unaired lustiness. Most enjoyable of all -- in part because it shows a nascent sense of humor -- is "Talk," a winking appropriation of Kraftwerk
's "Computer Love" that, in the hands of Martin and company, becomes a sort of cyborg power ballad. Much like U2
-- a band that's constantly held up as a benchmark for these boys -- at a similar point in their career, Coldplay exude both power and self-importance. And much like Bono
and crew, it's looking like Coldplay have the goods to back up the latter for a long time to come.