At some point in the future, I will have reviewed every single Coldplay album, so tonight I make my second dive into the extensive discography of one of the most popular bands of the last 20 years.
Coldplay’s second full-length studio album, A Rush of Blood to the Head was released on August 26, 2002 under Parlophone Records in the UK and under Columbia Records in the US. The album was the follow-up to the band’s very successful first musical venture Parachutes (see our review of Parachutes here). Coldplay’s success with the single “Yellow” propelled the band to worldwide fame, setting them up for an opportunity of continued success with a second album. The album has become certified 9x Platinum, selling over 20 million copies worldwide since its release. The album won the 2003 Grammy Award for “Best Alternative Album” as well as the 2004 Grammy Award for “Record of the Year” for its song “Clocks”. It is also ranked as number 466 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
The process that finally led to the release of A Rush of Blood to the Head was a long and tiring one which introduced a lot of strain on the band. As they neared the release for the album, which was originally scheduled for much earlier, the band decided to delay the release of the album because they were not happy with the product that they had created. They were allowed to postpone the release of the album. y the record label, and even ended throwing away a lot of songs that were originally slated to make the track list. Instead, Coldplay went back to the recording studio, which is the time when one of the most recognizable piano riffs in modern pop/rock music was born. As he sat in the studio one evening, Chris Martin perfected the infamous piano lines that make up the song “Clocks”. Once this was heard by the band’s manager and other members, it was immediately worked on and added to the album.
The album opens with a massive rock sound in “Politik”. This sound immediately expands Coldplay’s musical range of the time, as there really isn’t anything quite as powerful as the full band playing in unison on Parachutes. The song jumps back and forth between this massive sound and quieter, stripped down verses with only strings and piano in the background. This song is a good example of the more well-known sound that Coldplay was known for during their pre-electronic pop era, as it includes the full compliment of the band as well as string/synth sounds.
“In My Place”, the second track, was the lead single released for the album. The song was originally written for their debut album, but was held off until the second. The band played it numerous times on their Parachutes tour. The song is centered around a melodic, Coldplay-style guitar riff that only Jonny Buckland and the Edge of U2 are capable of creating. Once again, we hear the full compliment of the band in a huge wall of sound. Strings are once again included as a backdrop, giving a beautiful, full sound to an already polished product.
The third song, “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face”, sounds more like a track from Parachutes. The first minute of the song is simply a repeating acoustic guitar riff accompanied by Martin’s vocals. The sound is opened up once again to a much larger chorus including electric guitars playing chords, prominent bass notes, and strings in the back. The guitar riff continues throughout the entirety of the song, and provide a consistent driving quality to the song that is almost haunting during the verses. The song was also released as a single, but was not very successful as such. Nevertheless, this is one of the more underrated Coldplay songs, as you don’t see it performed live very often and never heard in a Coldplay “Greatest Hits” playlist.
The next two songs are the antithesis of the last song in that they are absolute monstrous hits in the realm of Coldplay. First comes “The Scientist”, a simple piano-based ballad about love, which is a common theme of Coldplay’s music still to this day. It is the second single released for A Rush of Blood to the Head. As with a lot of the songs he writes, Martin says that the well-known chord sequence just came out of him, and he thought it sounded “lovely”. He recorded the vocals and piano parts shortly after writing them in 2002. To this day, the song is still performed at just about every Coldplay concert, and has remained as one of the band’s defining songs. Next, however, is where the band cements itself in rock history. “Clocks” has one of the most memorable piano riffs ever written, which simply repeats as an ostinato throughout the song. The riff imitates a triplet against duplet polyrhythm, but still resides in simple 4/4 time. The song opens solely with this piano riff, but is quickly joined by the rest of the band imitating the same rhythm on various instruments. The drums accent the “polyrhythm” throughout, giving it a constant feel of driving forward, which seems to be a common theme throughout the album. Martin’s soaring vocals throughout the song constantly add layers and ambience over the simple riff creating one of Coldplay’s most well-known and most performed songs.
The album continues on with “Daylight”, “Green Eyes”, “Warning Sign”, and “A Whisper”, all of which continue the album’s themes of urgency and moving forward. We do get a refreshing break with “Green Eyes”, which is a nice slow-down in a very fast moving album. The song is mostly an acoustic track much like you would hear on Parachutes with Martin writing and singing about two different people in his life. One being an unnamed woman which Martin apparently had a romantic interest in and the other being his best friend and bandmate Jonny Buckland.
My personal favorite of the album comes in the penultimate title track. “A Rush of Blood to the Head” begins with the acoustic Coldplay sound we’ve experienced often, and most recently in “Green Eyes”, but then begins to build towards an absolutely fantastic chorus. The chorus is a full, driving, and extremely catchy. It is hard to sit through it without at least humming along, which can be said for a lot of Coldplay songs. Ambient guitar sounds and a simple drumbeat echo in the background while Martin soars through his verses, only to come back to the gigantic chorus again. The song finally ends with a lone guitar fading off into nothing.
The album concludes with “Amsterdam”, which begins with a lone Martin on piano. The song is a somber ending to a high powered album, at least up until the last minute, where Coldplay has just enough left for one more large full band chorus. The last chorus is short-lived however, as the song fades away to nothing and we are left with silence after 55 minutes of ups and downs and highs and lows.
A Rush of Blood to the Head is widely considered by critics and fans as the band’s best and most complete album. Coldplay took their success from their first album and truly expanded on it with this release. The band demonstrated that it is not afraid to experiment with its sound, which says a lot about them as musicians. Many musicians are afraid to leave their comfort zone where they have had only success, but Coldplay has never been one of those groups. As we have seen with later albums, Coldplay is constantly looking to experiment with new sounds and playing styles, and this album is no exception. It is not a wildly drastic change from the first album. It is, as I said previously, an expansion of sound and musicality. It is a more polished and engineered product, incorporating many new elements into its tracks. This is just the beginning however, as the worldwide popularity of Coldplay would only continue to skyrocket in the coming years.
- Politik (5:18)
- In My Place (3:48)
- God Put a Smile Upon Your Face (4:57)
- The Scientist (5:09)
- Clocks (5:07)
- Daylight (5:27)
- Green Eyes (3:43)
- Warning Sign (5:31)
- A whisper (3:58)
- A Rush of Blood to the Head (5:51)
- Amsterdam (5:19)
Guy Berryman – bass guitar
Jonny Buckland – lead electric guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals (tracks 1, 6)
Will Champion – drums, backing vocals, percussion
Chris Martin – lead vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar, synthesizer
Sølve Sundsbø – cover art
The rear of the CD case of A Rush of Blood to the Head
“A Rush of Blood to the Head.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Mar. 2017. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.