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In This Ordinary World...
on 2 June 2005
I'm trying to resist the temptation to totally diss Coldplay just because I don't think they are as good as many others do. After all, I don't think that they are as bad as others would have you believe either. (Strange how such as seemingly innocuous band can give rise to such strong feelings of love and hate...)
Many of those in the Hate Coldplay Camp seem to lay the charge of incontinence at these poor lads' door. I suppose it is because of they are being portrayed as tortured, sensitive souls. A bit of mental anguish is nothing I would ever hold against an artist, though - I quite like my Jeff Buckleys and Thom Yorkes, no strangers to gloom any of them. It is true that Coldplay's sadness lacks a bit of passion, but that doesn't bother me either. Being a vegetarian public schoolboy with slightly receding hair-line is apparently not really rock-il-faut, but so what? Working class cred isn't everything, just look at the Gallaghers and their lumbering post-Morning Glory efforts. As far as I can see there's nothing wrong with a bit of tender melancholia.
No, the reason I'm not really enamoured with Coldplay is that they sound slightly anonymous.
Maybe I'm weird, but I don't think the music on "A Rush of Blood" has that instant recognition factor of other huge bands. Whenever my flatmates put it on, I go "oh, I know this music... who is it again...?", something I would never do with Radiohead or REM or U2 or... well, you get the picture. There's no denying that the bulk of material on this album sounds very similar - to itself and to other bands. Most of it consists of mid-tempo ballads building up to a U2-esque crescendo. Guitar-laden intros fade out in favour of a rushing piano and Martin's falsetto vocals - and off we go, into teenage diary territory. "Where do we go from here, why are we here, why do I have a pimple on my chin?"
Oh, the lyrics, the lyrics. Looking through the titles, I expected some top ones - Chris Martin has got a real knack for finding catchy & poetic phrases like "Good Put A Smile On Your Face" or "A Rush of Blood to the Head". Listening to the CD, I was a bit disappointed to realise that the actual lyrics, in contrast, are all very general, verging on banal. Sure, Martin sings them like he really means them, which does lends them some poignancy, but they aren't the sort of lyrics that can stand on their own.
Apart from this, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these earnest, heartfelt melodies. They aren't soulless or unintelligent - they just fail to set my world alight. Will people still listen to Coldplay twenty years from now, like they do to U2? Maybe not, but that's a harsh standard to judge a band by. In the meantime, this album serves up accessible, sensitive rock to millions of ordinary, lost souls our there. And even if they have nothing of Radiohead's entrancing weirdness, their ordinariness is their own, unique appeal. After all, wasn't it Radiohead that asked for a "quiet life with no surprises"? Maybe that's what Chris Martin is offering us, and who would blame us if we grasped the chance?