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Saturday, 8 September 2012

Coldplay - Parachutes (2000)

In the Spring of 2000, I heard Coldplay for the first time and loved what I heard. An independent record shop in Wolverhampton called Highway 61 was playing Coldplay’s Blue Room EP over their sound-system. I asked who the band were, and wanted to buy the CD. The EP had sold out, but the woman behind the counter informed me that I could buy their single ‘Shiver’ on vinyl if I wanted. I hadn’t heard the song before, and when I got it home I must have played it a dozen times. The energy and flow of the song were awesome – it reminded me of a cheerful Radiohead.

When I bought the album in the July, I remember feeling a little disappointed: only ‘Shiver’ had captured the energy that I’d liked so much, and the album was incredibly short at a little over a half-hour long. I listened to the album quite a lot at first, but every time I listened to it, there was a missing ingredient that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. And when I moved into student halls in the September I could, at any one time, hear at least three copies of the album blasting out of different windows. Coldplay quickly began to grate on me and I hardly paid much attention to them after this.

I haven’t listened to Parachutes in twelve years, and it’s difficult to approach the album objectively. All I have in my mind are all of the things that bug me about Coldplay and their subsequent musical trajectory. But, I must give them a chance; perhaps I will be surprised and find a new love for Chris Martin and company (though this is highly unlikely).

The album opens with ‘Don’t Panic’, a song which is actually very good. The drums and guitar are really interesting, and the echoic space created by the lead guitar in the chorus is fantastic. Chris Martin’s vocals sound quite subdued, as he sings in a lower register and doesn’t overdo that voice lilt that has become synonymous with his vocal style. ‘Shiver’ still sounds excellent. It embodies an energy and urgency that is severely lacking from every other Coldplay song. ‘Spies’ is quite nice, if a little dull. This is a track that sound very much like a Radiohead B-side circa 1997. There’s nothing particularly offensive or irritating about the track, it doesn’t really add anything or take anything away from the album – it’s just there. ‘Sparks’ has some nice chord changes, but again it is just a very boring and predictable piece of music: there are artists like Elliot Smith and Badly Drawn Boy who have pulled this style off much more convincingly. I scoffed when I heard the opening notes to ‘Yellow’ – this song is overplayed and any sense of emotion that it once evoked has long been lost. After such promising opening tracks, ‘Trouble’ reminded me of exactly why I can’t stand Coldplay. I cannot abide this track: I never did and I never will. The song is a melodramatic ‘emotional song’ by-numbers, and it drives me insane with its insincerity. ‘High Speed’ is a pretty decent song, but again it draws from the sound of another band (this time Storm in Heaven-era Verve), but sounds as though they aren’t really committed to it. ‘Everything’s Not Lost’ is an attempt at a good ol’ anthemic sing-along. I’m sure if you like the band, it would work, but by the time I got to this track I wanted to shove the disc down Chris Martin’s throat.

As Omar from The Wire would say, this album’s got to get got. There are a couple of really good songs on here, but there is just this niggling feeling that Coldplay were performing a box-ticking exercise on how to make music with feeling, and ended up just coming off as incredibly insincere. Hopefully someone will buy this and raise a couple of quid for charity.

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