Hot ‘Stripes’ and ‘Cold’ brit-pop

Ben Breier

Three years after their sophomore effort, A Rush Of Blood To The Head, Brit-pop sensation Coldplay has finally cranked out another album: the slightly obtuse X&Y. Although the album is a bit confusing in regards to the direction it attempts to take, X&Y is leaps and bounds better than A Rush Of Blood To The Head, but grossly overshadowed by the brilliantly crafted pop licks of Parachutes.

Chris Martin’s familiar British falsetto is back in full force on this album, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to the first track, “Square One.” Slowly drawing in on a strange-sounding 80s synth line, the better half of this song sounds like a creepy science education program on PBS.

“What If” sounds like Chris Martin’s take on John Lennon’s “Imagine” — just replace “imagine” with “what if” and accompany it with some minimalist piano chords backed by violins and you’ve got the gist of the song. It’s not that the song is bad. It’s just that this has all been done before, and much better.

“Speed of Sound” is the album’s single, and it’s easily the most awful song on the record. Martin’s falsetto morphs into a screeching feline with laryngitis, and it’s not pretty.

When it comes down to it, X&Y is a successful failure. While the majority of the tracks range from tolerable to good, none contain any of the memorability found in Parachutes. If you’re a Coldplay fan looking for your fix, this will probably tide you over for a short while. X&Y is miles beyond the overrated A Rush Of Blood To The Head, but it’s still not good enough.

The White Stripes

On the opposite end of the musical spectrum is Get Behind Me Satan, the newest release from the creative geniuses behind The White Stripes, Jack and Meg White. If Coldplay’s newest album is a good example of straight-forward pop, Get Behind Me Satan is a display of jaw-dropping eclectic madness — but that’s not what makes this album great.

Get Behind Me Satan is a remarkably different album when set alongside preceding White Stripes efforts, such as White Blood Cells and Elephant. The in-your-face electric guitar and fast-paced raggedy-scratch vocals of Jack White are replaced by piano-accentuated ballads and bluesy melodies.

“White Moon” is a perfect showcase of this new style. Piano chords that seem absolutely elementary set on top of subtle, lazy-paced percussion open up the track, and Jack White sings with unbridled clarity — hell, you can actually understand what he’s singing about! That’s practically a first for any White Stripes album.

However, the album does manage to rock out occasionally. “Blue Orchid” does a good job of illustrating the fact that The White Stripes are a rock ‘n’ roll band at their very core, and it’s easily one of their best rock songs. “Passive Manipulation” features a little bit of Meg by herself, and “Little Ghost” takes a turn for the weird. Meg and Jack singing with a twang on top of a banjo and tambourine gives this song a bit of a hillbilly rock-jam feeling.

The White Stripes have always been known for being a little strange, so it should be no surprise that Get Behind Me Satan doesn’t break this trend. It plays a bit with the aggressive rock ‘n’ roll which has made The White Stripes a successful band, and it’s definitely a welcome change of pace. This feels more like a side project and less like a true White Stripes record, but Get Behind Me Satan is a solid record nonetheless.

Contact general assignment reporter Ben Breier at [email protected].