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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Coldplay, "Parachutes"

Capitol (2000)

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

Coldplay has taken a bad rap over the years, far worse than what they deserve. They're quiet, they're subtle, there's that line in "Knocked Up" where the one pal is "gay" because he listens to Coldplay. But think about it. Those are the exact reasons why Coldplay is the opposite of Nickelback, the go-to band for hatred en masse. You could argue that both bands exist in separate, equally sucky poles. I would argue the opposite (except for Nickelback of course), especially on Coldplay's debut album "Parachutes."

The first thing in getting past what you don't like about Coldplay is figuring out what you don't like about Coldplay. I'm going to use myself as the example here. I don't enjoy the band (note: there's a difference between "dislike" and "don't enjoy") because the vocalist isn't aggressive with any of his emotions and the instrumentals aren't dense. Odds are, this is also why every Nickelback fan hates Coldplay.

Let's start with the vocals. I just kind of made the argument that Chris Martin doesn't show emotional range in his singing. But I lied. He does, but recognizing it is all about understanding relativity. Just check out the two big singles from this album, "Shiver" and "Yellow." Martin is subtle throughout and he's still subtle during the hook, but notice how when switches to his falsetto. When you examine nearly any Coldplay song, Martin's pitch rises as the action rises. And it ain't schlocky wails like '80s hair metal; Martin has got a beautiful crooning voice and he's at his best in the higher range.

Another reason why rock fans don't like Coldplay: The band is never angry! Think about mainstream rock music. Anger (or at least spite) is the emotion of choice, whether it be Three Days Grace, Green Day or Cannibal Corpse. Coldplay is sad half the time, and during the other half they have the nerve to be optimistic, such as during songs like "Everything's Not Lost" and "Yellow." Optimism is generally frowned upon (Ha-ha! I didn't even mean to do that) in rock circles. If you don't like Coldplay because of its positive attitude, find a better reason.

As I mentioned, the music isn't too dense either. If you listen to "Parachutes" and find it boring, think: Did you find the Tony Bennett album we listened to boring as well? You probably didn't like the latter because you don't like the piano/vocal-and-that's-it setup. Coldplay only occasionally uses a real keyboard, Jonny Buckland and Guy Berryman string duo operates just like a single piano. The piano, after all, is just an efficient combination of the guitar and bass. Check out the second verse in "Sparks:" Buckland is the slow twinkling of the left hand and Berryman is the resonant chords of the right, and Martin is the much quieter Tony Bennett. If there's excitement to be had, it's when drummer Will Champion picks up the pace leading up to the hooks.

If it doesn't work for you, don't worry about it. Coldplay is a band that fits your tastes or it doesn't. Just don't think it's because they're a bad band.

INTERESTING FACT: Coldplay performed "Yellow" at a tribute for Steve Jobs in 2011, and commented that they had played the same song for him more than ten years earlier. Martin said the software pioneer referred to the song as "total shit" and that Coldplay would never make it as a band.

Shiver by Coldplay on Grooveshark

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