A Tale of Two Opposites

Coldplay´s A Rush of Blood to the Head.

Coldplay´s A Rush of Blood to the Head.

MiMi Yeh

This weekend, I happened to receive two CDs to review, one by big-name Coldplay and one by a no-name group called Mad at Gravity, running to the extreme ends of the critical spectrum. Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head is as soothing as Mad At Gravity’s Resonance is discordant.

Full of softly spoken and lyrically clever songs, A Rush of Blood to the Head delivers exactly the opposite, with its relaxing, low-key approach to the world. Even their jamming on “Whisper” and my favorite “God Put a Smile on Your Face” sounds as gentle and strong as any other tune on the album.

The first track, “Politik”, and the liner notes for this single song, are somewhat off-putting for anyone, like myself, who is not familiar with Coldplay: “For countries to develop or even survive they need to be able to trade fairly. At the moment, poorer countries are strangled by ridiculous international trade laws and ruthless western business, keeping millions trapped in poverty and widening the gap between rich and poor,” followed by a list of organizations that promote “fair trade” products. The lyrics, however, speak of love and trust: “Give me strength/reserve control/Give me heart/Give me soul/Wounds that heal and cracks that fix/Oh Love, tell me your own politik.” Instead of being a group of whiny, programmed, rhetoric-spouting lunatics, it turns into a cool, ambiguous song of human nature.

“God Has Put A Smile Upon Your Face” ponders the depths of death with its opening verse, “Where do we go/Nobody knows/I’ve got to say I’m on my way down/God gave me style and gave me grace/God put a smile upon my face”, never figuring out what exactly happens but enjoying the exploration itself.

The album’s namesake, A Rush of Blood to the Head, journeys through a tale of promised retribution interspersed with regret over the pain of past relationships. “I’m gonna buy a gun and start a war/if you can tell me something worth fighting for/I’m gonna buy this place if you stick around/I’m gonna buy this place and burn it down.” The song attempts to destroy the past and apologize for the present while giving up on the future.

Though the first listening seems anesthetizing and might leave the listener unconscious, it’s easier to appreciate the second and third time around, giving the songs time to penetrate and grow on you, allowing you to appreciate the intricacy and care Coldplay takes with their music unlike most groups out there today.

Mad at Gravity seem more mad at their parents than anything else. Whether it’s the five faces glaring out at you from a cloud-drenched twilit sky in the liner notes or the incomprehensible mumbling that spans the first 30 seconds of the beginning track (which would have seemed more mistaken than deliberate were it not for the overlapping opening merging with track two’s “Walk Away”), they seem like a low-budget Linkin’ Park.

But the alterna-boy band’s album is not without it’s charm, in the same way that “Hybrid Theory” is. Although not quite as hard on the ears or commercially strong, their first song “Walk Away”, is probably it’s strongest and surprisingly catchy. From there, they flatline into mediocrity.

“Find me/I’m falling/And fooling myself that it’s flight. Imperfect/I plummet/And ponder/Pushed away on principle.” If it’s not the alliteration ad nauseum that annoys the listener most, then it’s the repetitive ABAB rhyme scheme that they stick to regardless of rhythm or logic. In sticking to the safety of similarly sounding syllables, vaguely focused song themes, and predictable lyrics, they fail to make any real impression. It’s not necessarily an awful album, just a bland piece of easy listening for the teen-pop rock crowd in a generation of disposable music.

They waste their energy and intensity on the first four tracks (“Walk Away”, “Historypeats”, “Time and Time Again”, and “Find the Words”) leaving you to sit through the insensible “Run for Cover” and “Burn”. After that, it’s almost too painful to squirm through any more songs that are strictly junior-high caliber.

I have to say, though, it’s great when a C-level group produces an album like Resonance because it makes it easier to enjoy the sophistication of albums on the level of

A Rush of Blood to the Head.