EMI Records - 2002 - 54 minutes

Easily one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the year, Coldplay's 'A Rush Of Blood To The Head' has a lot riding on it. Its 2000 predecessor, 'Parachutes', was one of those albums that got almost everything right, and will certainly figure strongly in future 'Best Debut Album' lists. For Coldplay, therein lies the problem. Having shot such a masterful opening salvo, could they sustain such a blistering pace? It's a question which plagued the band itself during the making of this album, and it's also one which you will ask yourself repeatedly as you gladly lend your ears to this.

The opening four-track stretch certainly suggests that the former University of London boys have pulled off the impossible. 'Politik' is of Radiohead 'Ok Computer' vintage; 'In My Place', pivoting on Jonny Buckland's delicious guitar riff, is pure pop pleasure; 'God Put A Smile Upon Your Face' enthrals with its soaring chorus, while 'The Scientist' passes the torch to lead singer Chris Martin for a piano-led solo run. He doesn't disappoint.

Indeed, Martin, despite (or perhaps because of) his widely publicised self-doubt, is the star here. His voice now sounds like it can handle the burden of his emotion-soaked lyrics, while the writing itself is strong throughout.

A lull ensues in the middle of 'A Rush Of Blood…' from which Coldplay just about manage to recover. 'Daylight' wears its Radiohead heart a little too obviously on its sleeve, while the folksy 'Green Eyes' simply seems out of place. And yet that is probably the greatest criticism that can be levelled at the whole album. Yes, it would have benefited from keener track sequencing, and no, there's nothing as immediately inspiring as 'Don't Panic' or 'Trouble', but taken as a whole, it's a triumph.

Coldplay deserve a lot of credit for refusing to churn out 'Parachutes 2'. Equally, 'A Rush Of Blood To The Head' never comes across as the sound of a band trying too hard, but rather one of a band refusing to take the easy option and sticking to their guns with a commendable degree of patience. With repeated listening comes the realisation that this should cement Coldplay's place as one of the finest English bands of the past half-decade or more.

Quick fix freaks will be disappointed; everyone else will be thrilled.

Tom Grealis

Tracklisting: Politik - In My Place - God Put A Smile Upon Your Face - The Scientist - Clocks - Daylight - Green Eyes - Warning Sign - A Whisper - A Rush Of Blood To The Head - Amsterdam