Imagine early Radiohead with none of the energy or edge (i.e. none of the alternative/grunge influences) and none of the aritness or idiosyncrasy, and imagine them playing mostly ballads (and the up-tempo songs are so soft they sound like ballads) and I guess you get some idea of what Coldplay sound like on their first album. (There is probably some anemic ’90s britpop band that is a better comparison but I try not to listen to that stuff.) It is a testament to the public’s eternal desire for The Bland that Coldplay are successful as they are.
The songs are pretty decent, they are mostly pretty catchy and the singles aren’t vastly superior to the rest of the material. When I’m paying enough attention to notice – not often – Martin’s lyrics strike me as above average and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he’s become quite the songwriter in the intervening years. I can’t stress enough that the songs are not the problem with this record.
The sound of the recording is pretty good, too. I can hear everything, there’s decent space and there’s nothing muddled about it. I have no idea if other people complain about an aughts cliche sound but I doubt this has it if it exists. It’s just well recorded.
But, holy hell, are these guys lifeless. (I guess the nice way of saying it would be “mellow”.) Honestly I’ll be listening to a more uptempo song and I think it’s a ballad because that is the vibe of the entire album. Buckland’s guitar occasionally approaches the edges of personality and then quickly backs away. Martin is unbendingly earnest but doesn’t seem to have another gear (one way or the other). The rhythm section found their right band-mates because I suspect other musicians would get eager to breakout of their particular groove. The moments which do sound loud are like a facsimile of actual loud music (rendered more absurd by the album’s excellent production).
Do people actually like rock music that never actually rocks? They must, because this is not the first hit album that is ostensibly “rock” but which appears to contain little to no rock music. But it’s utterly baffling to me.