Coldplay and Ron Sexsmith

Though he's fallen so deeply in love with his own voice that he's now unable to distinguish between pining and whining--seen the live video for "Clocks," where he does a little ill-advised scatting over that glittering groove?--Coldplay front man Chris Martin has emerged as the New British Guitar-Pop Thing's de facto leader, providing U2 fans with a youthful jolt U2 can no longer provide, churning out moony-eyed paeans to colors young actresses tend to dig, wearing slogan-bearing T-shirts that probably won't make a difference but sure should. A Rush of Blood to the Head shows he pretty much deserves the seat, too: The band's second album just does what the first one did, only better and louder and with more interest in texture and dynamics and stuff. I know, I miss the genteel schoolboy shuffle of "Yellow," too, but if this music's gonna go anywhere besides Johnny Marr's scrapbook, somebody's gotta move it along.

Opener Ron Sexsmith isn't cut out to lead much of anything--seen the cover of 1999's Whereabouts, where he's handling a maple leaf as if it might talk back to him?--but his latest, Cobblestone Runway, suggests that the supply of lovely, writerly pop songs he's got buried within his sad-clown mien might be inexhaustible. Martin even shows up on a bonus version of "Gold in Them Hills," and the pairing does each man well--Sexsmith sounds like a babe; Martin sounds like less of one.


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