Dependable isn't the worst thing a rock band could be. Every generation needs its R.E.M., a band consistently putting out albums that, while rarely genre-shattering, are nonetheless likable, listenable, dependable. For now, at least, Coldplay is that band. X&Y showcases musicians who have found their sound, and they're stickin' to it. Nothing here is as resplendent as, say, "The Scientist," but they're fine songs--lush, midtempo numbers with soaring melodies that climax amid chugging guitars and occasional you-don't-have-to-be-alone cliché. As a songwriter who has often used the painful specifics of heartbreak as creative fodder, Chris Martin has hit somewhat of a snafu: To write anything about his personal life would be to further expose a very public tabloid marriage. And unlike Bono or Sting, he's too humble (or insecure, or smart) to write about what he really cares about--liberal politics and, in particular, fair trade. So instead we have a nice but shallow song like "The Speed of Sound": "All those signs I knew that they meant/Some things you can invent/Some get made, and some get sent." Nice rhyme scheme, kid, but what's the point? Look, a song doesn't have to make sense to have meaning, but a square, well-behaved bloke like Martin works better with that kind of literalism; Jeff Tweedy he is not. The good news is that X&Y will please the millions of fans waiting for Coldplay's next move. But I suspect it will hardly satiate them--or stay in their CD changer long.
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Sarah Hepola