by Clint Burgess

UK imports Coldplay broke on these shores quietly and then not so quietly with their 2000 debut, Parachutes, which featured the hit tunes "Yellow" and "Trouble." The band enjoyed moderate radio success initially, then slowly climbed into heavy rotation, thus priming the stateside record-buying public for an eventual conquest.

Enter A Rush of Blood to the Head (Capitol), the smashing second effort from a band that was once referred to disparagingly as "Radiohead-light." It's a brilliant collection of tunes that has fans and critics alike singing the group's praises while putting to rest the notion (perhaps for good) that Chris Martin and Co. are just another faceless British guitar band with self-loathing tendencies.

The endeavor of any band that secures even modest success should be to improve with each album, push new ideas and conquer new territory. On this level alone, A Rush of Blood to the Head is a success. It represents an exponential leap forward. The sophomore jinx -- a potential hazard for many bands -- has no power whatsoever over Coldplay.

Filled with thoughtful lyrics, dynamic arrangements and imaginative instrumental sounds, the album far exceeds the formidable charms of its predecessor. "In My Place," the first single, employs a memorable Jon Buckland guitar hook complemented by solid support from the rhythm section (Will Champion on drums and Guy Berryman on bass) and Martin's signature nasal vocal stylings.

More of what makes this a worthy album can be found in the song "Clocks," where a mesmerizing piano theme grabs you with the force of a swelling wave and bathes the listener in a subtle synthesizer wash before breaking into a solid back beat. Further and further you're pushed into a trance-like state as the absolute harmony of all the parts combine to make the whole push into and move through the subconscious. The record is incredibly cohesive and consistent, bucking the disquieting music industry trend whereby the powers that be inject mediocre albums with one or two radio-friendly tunes and then ride the sub-par product all the way to the bank.

The band's efforts here have not gone unnoticed among fans and industry watchers. They've collected two Grammy nominations, codifying the band's commercial, if not artistic, potential. Maybe the real test for Coldplay will be the next album.

Publication date: 02/20/03

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