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<i>A Rush Of Blood To The Head</i>

The long-awaited second release from Coldplay is here. Words like "rockier", "moodier" and "electric" have been bandied about in the press, but as far as "bigger" goes, Saffron Chalmers finds that doesn't necessarily mean "better"

After two years of touring and seven months in the studio Coldplay have finally delivered their much anticipated second album. The band love it, the critics love it, but is A Rush Of Blood To The Head all that it's cracked up to be? I'm not so sure

Now don't get me wrong, I think this is a promising album, it just isn't as great and different as people are saying. Coldplay's goal in producing the album was to build on what they had with Parachutes and "make it better...". It's being hailed as a resounding success - more mature, more intricate, much better. But in truth the album could do with some heavy trimming.

The outros to many of the tracks are ridiculously (and tediously) long - "Daylight" and "A Rush Of Blood To The Head" being perfect examples of this. Both tracks could happily be a good minute shorter without loosing any of the valuable song content. Perhaps they spent too long on the production (seven months is a long time) and lost their objectivity, but it seems that with success and acclaim has come the courage to be a little self-indulgent.

But that's the albums only flaw. Musically it is striking, and the closer you listen to the instrumentation and clever layering of sounds the more you appreciate it. "Clocks", with its U2 style middle eight, and "Daylight" whirl and swirl around you with layer upon layer of sound, while you can easily get washed away in the sheer beauty of "The Scientist" (not even noticing that it too is over five minutes long).

The catchy "In My Place" was the obvious first single as it is the song that would sit most comfortably on Parachutes - both in style and track length - and it bridges the gap between the albums.

When you first hear this album you might be disappointed - or confused. It begins with the smash and crash of "Politik", follows up with the familiar sound of "In My Place" and then seems to drift off into the emotional realms of 'Coldplay land', where nothing is cheerful or brief. The main difference between A Rush Of Blood To The Head and Parachutes is the change in mood. While Parachutes was ten little parcels of optimism, Rush Of Blood has a moody, almost melancholic, atmosphere, the only light moments being "In My Place" and the folkie "Green Eyes", with its contagiously sunny optimism.

Everyone's talking about the 'rockiness' of this second album - I have yet to find it. The intros to "Politik" and "A Whisper" are heavier, the album is moodier... but rocky? I'll have to think about that one. I can't help but wonder whether perhaps people have forgotten the intros to "Shiver" and "Yellow". I don't know; for an album that's all about "being impulsive" it's awfully laid back, almost sleepy.

At their own admission Rush Of Blood is "very different" from Parachutes - it's darker, moodier, more electric - but it's similar enough not to alienate the listener. Crammed with sweeping, swirling ballads and emotional chorus's, Rush Of Blood could best be described as a "stadium album". It sounds "bigger" than Parachutes and as you listen you can picture a huge stage, thousands of swaying lighters and a gigantic audience all singing along.

Chris Martin has said that Rush Of Blood is "...the best thing we can do at the moment" - admittedly it could've been a whole lot better if it was 10 mins shorter, but it's definitely pretty damn good. A Rush Of Blood To The Head is a stunning album, it may just take a few listens before you can see it. "It would be nice if someone liked it," says the quiet frontman. Well Chris, we like it - roll on the Australasian tour.

Saffron Chalmers