Thanks to its fragile front man and its melodic, moody music, Coldplay is revered by fans as the second coming of bands like Echo and the Bunnymen and reviled by detractors like Creation Records founder Alan McGee for making "music for bed wetters." But as its second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, makes abundantly clear, both characterizations are incorrect: Coldplay's ululating waves of sound are built less upon sensitive indie rock than on big ideas from pop's past, from Phil Spector's Wall of Sound to the epic reach of seventies prog-rock bands like Yes and Genesis.
This doesn't mean, however, that Coldplay -- particularly its lead singer, Chris Martin -- doesn't drown A Rush of Blood to the Head in sorrow. There is enough self-loathing ("When you work it out, I am worse than you," from "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face," is an archetypal Coldplay chorus) and pleading for forgiveness to match Morrissey's maudlin-isms.
Yet it's Coldplay's lack of humor, the very straightness of its lyrics, that makes the dourness so detestable. And where miserabilists past had a strong pop sensibility, Coldplay is content to create directionless palettes of sound. Even C-grade Radiohead soundscapes have more wit and adventurousness.
Queens of the Stone Age is a revolving-door rock supergroup whose current incarnation includes Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, and Ween guitarist Dean Ween. The transient nature of the band suggests passing pleasures, but Songs for the Deaf is anything but insignificant: It is one of the heaviest rock albums since Seattle's heyday. Nicking riffs from Cheap Trick and Foreigner and putting irresistible effects into the mix, it reminds us that grunge loomed large because it was so spectacularly unafraid to mix punk, metal, and pop. It's a lesson many in the neo-garage scene could learn a lot from.