I've written before about the comparisons between U2 and Coldplay but on the way home yesterday, X & Y by Coldplay was on the car stereo again. I’ve had that album in the 6-CD changer since I bought it on it’s release day. That is an indication that I like it a lot. But during one of the songs – and I’m sorry that I don’t know many of the song titles, an unfortunate side-effect of doing much of my listening while driving – I was struck for at least the second time by the drums and bass. Actually, I was struck by the absence of a particular type of drum and bass playing.
I’ve listened to more than a little U2 and Coldplay has made no secret of the fact that U2 has been an influence on them. Their grand sound is more than a little U2-like and many people have noted the similarities. They’re more than just U2 wanna-be’s, of course. They have their own groove and their own sound but, still, the lingering U2 comparisons are too many to avoid.
U2’s strengths are legion but their secret weapon is their rhythm section. It is amazing how often I find myself listening to the bass line as a key melodic player in a U2 song. As I write this, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” is on my itunes and, sure enough, the bass has a wonderful riff that goes throughout the verse and serves as an excellent counterpoint to the sung melody and to Edge’s wash of sound. Larry Mullins’ drumming is often the driving force behind the songs – the thing that propels it into the stratosphere, especially the way he leads into new song sections really helps the songs have a much greater emotional impact.
Coldplay’s rhythm section, while completely adequate, hasn’t gotten to that point yet. While the players might be really important to the creation of the songs, it seems to my ears that they could be pretty easily replaced. That is something that might give Coldplay less staying power in the long run. We’ll just have to see what happens.