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Coldplay, Coldplay retrospective, Chris Martin, Parachutes, Politik
Coldplay: Today the girl next door. Tomorrow the world.
by: David Medsker

Music Home / Entertainment Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

Toward the end of 2000, a low but strong murmur went through the music community about an English band called Coldplay. The band to whom they were most often compared was Travis, the Scottish minstrels that scored a couple hits earlier in the year with their excellent album The Man Who. The Coldplay fans, though, wrinkled their noses at the mere mention of Travis as a measuring stick. “Coldplay is way better than Travis,” two separate Coldplay fans told me, using the exact same condescending tone. First impression: Coldplay fans were jerks. Sounds like an elitist cult following in the making. Stay away from this band.

Then, in early 2001, the band broke big, thanks to a big dumb sing-a-long called “Yellow” that contained the following bit of poetry: “I came along, I wrote a song for you / And all the things you do / And it was called ‘Yellow.’” Second impression: the Coldplay fans think this blows Travis away? Not only are they snobs, but they’re snobs with bad taste.

More Coldplay
Don't miss David's reviews of 2002's A Rush of Blood to the Head and Coldplay's latest release, X&Y.
The third impression, however, was much different, and much longer lasting. Parachutes, the album that spawned “Yellow,” is far subtler than that blunt instrument of a single. Leadoff track “Don’t Panic” sets the tone from the get-go, with gliding guitars and Chris Martin’s now-famous falsetto jumping tenor. “Shiver” and “Trouble” were the album’s calling cards, though. The former track showed the band’s ability to shift tempos while coming up with some truly memorable guitar riffs, while the latter showed that they knew their way around a ballad. Martin’s ability to play both piano and guitar gave the band a much fuller sound, and the band took advantage of his versatility.

Still, no one was prepared for what the Coldplay did next. A Rush of Blood to the Head, released in August of 2002, was light years beyond its predecessor. It was the sound of a band letting it all hang out, literally and figuratively. Shedding their image as Radiohead Lite (an affliction Travis has had to deal with as well), Coldplay goes whole hog on Rush of Blood, beginning with the opening track, “Politik.” A driving, minor key and otherworldly ballad that launches into an altogether different, emotionally crippling finale, “Politik” made it clear that Coldplay were playing for keeps. But despite opening with the one-two ballad punch of “Politik” and “In My Place,” the band hadn’t gone completely soft. The up-tempo numbers (to call them rockers would be misleading) “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face,” “Daylight” and “Green Eyes” are markedly different in approach, borrowing influences from Roxy Music, Love & Rockets and Americana, respectively.

But “Clocks” is the song that sent them into the stratosphere. A gorgeous but haunting piano atop a pile driver drum beat, this was their shot heard ‘round the world, the song that was impossible to escape for a good 18 months. It gave Coldplay the rather enviable position of being an extremely high profile band with an extremely low profile.

Which is what made Chris Martin’s next move even more puzzling. He started dating Gwyneth Paltrow, the Oscar winning actress and, at the time, one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Perhaps it was Martin’s ability to be both high exposure and low profile that appealed to her, since her last two relationships imploded for the entire world to see. Before anyone knew it, Martin and Paltrow were married, and had a baby girl, which they saddled with the unfortunate name of Apple. People started smelling a Yoko, convinced that Paltrow was going to ruin Coldplay. When stories surfaced that the band had scrapped an entire album’s worth of tracks because they weren’t deemed fit, some speculated that the band was having trouble getting it together. Still more talk of Yoko.

Quit hatin’, y’all. Sure, X&Y is not as electrifying as Rush of Blood, but few albums this decade have been. The very fact that it can stand up to Rush of Blood on some level is cause for celebration. While it has its share of ballads -- “What If,” though lyrically pathetic, is lovely, and the title track is one of the band’s best -- “Low,” “Talk” and “White Shadows” show that Martin hasn’t gone all soft on us, like many nay sayers predicted he would. The most pleasant surprise may be the hidden track “Till Kingdom Come,” a cute, upbeat campfire song and love letter to Yoko, er, Paltrow.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Coldplay’s rise to superstardom is that they did it without a magnanimous lead singer, K Mart sponsorships or swearing on national television. They’re average Joes with massive plans. All bands should be so grounded and yet so gifted.

Send any questions or comments to dmedsker@bullz-eye.com

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