Tuesday, April 29, 2008

No. 473: A Rush of Blood to the Head

Band: Coldplay
Album: A Rush of Blood to the Head
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: A huge record that cemented Coldplay as a huge band, "A Rush of Blood to the Head" was a giant hit. Featuring three huge singles, the album sold 3 million copies.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I think this album doesn't belong on the list, but the record is often slammed for no good reason.
Best song: "The Scientist" is lush and pretty.
Worst song: I don't like "God Put a Smile upon Your Face."
Is it awesome?: I really like this album.

(Let me first disclose something: Coldplay has a cameo in my favorite comedy film of all time. On one of the post-zombie news reports in "Shaun of the Dead," Coldplay makes an appearance touting a fictional Zomb-Aid charity record. I will always like them a little for that appearance.)

Coldplay gets a lot of shit around indie rock parts because of their incredibly earnest songwriting style. Pitchfork's review of "A Rush of Blood to the Head" called the album "boring," almost entirely in comparison to "Parachutes," the band's debut.

I'm not going to argue that "A Rush of Blood to the Head" isn't boring. It is. Coldplay isn't rewriting the rule book on rock and roll. Being a British band, Coldplay never put huge roots down in college radio and indie blogs, though "Parachutes" was revered by both camps.


Again, it's trendy to mock Coldplay, partially for the band's popularity, partially for lead singer Chris Martin naming his kid "Apple" and partially because he's politically outspoken (in the British way of writing "fair trade" on his piano).

Still, "A Rush of Blood to the Head" has highlights. The grand example is the rabid worldwide popularity of entirely British "In My Place," a tome on social class, friendships and life. "Clocks" is a rapid-pace tour de force with a great Martin vocal and piano line. "Politik" has a deluge of guitar, fitting the LOUDquietLOUD thing. "The Scientist," literate and charming, is based on the combination of a George Harrison song and Nathaniel Hawthorne short story.

The record isn't great. The production is a little thin and the tail end of the record is repetitive. Still, it's often shit upon and I don't think that's fair.


taotechuck said...

This is to '90s brit-pop what Boston or Kansas were to '70s prog: there's nothing wrong with it, but it breaks absolutely no new ground. Journey Escape deserves to be on the list more than this album does. With that said, neither Coldplay nor Journey belong here, because neither of them made any meaningful changes to rock music.

fft said...

I love this album. It falls into the category of "guilty pleasure" for me -- I know its not the best stuff out there and its kind of lame but I like it anyway.

I always tell people that Coldplay is the Genesis of this decade. The 80's Phil Collins Genesis, not the 70's Peter Gabriel genesis. This stuff will not wear well in 20 years.

I agree with the previous comment that this album adds nothing new, but its a pretty solid, brave album nonetheless. "Just plain good" should be exactly what being #473 is all about.

taotechuck said...

I recently read a quote by some pretentious ass that said something like "When there are great books, why would I waste my time with good books?"

Whether or not you like Fugazi, The Buzzcocks, Fela Kuti, Lead Belly, The Flaming Lips, Iron Maiden, or Throbbing Gristle (to name but a few), each of them has had a unique and traceable influence on rock music. Each of them has made a musical contribution (and an album) that could be defined as great. And each of them was left off of this list.

There are enough "great" albums from enough "great" bands that, on a list of this size, there is no room for "just plain good."

I'm fine with calling A Rush of Blood to the Head a good album, but not if it means a great album gets overlooked in the process.