Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Coldplay 1: Parachutes

Well before a Seth Rogen movie made them a homophobic punchline, there was a certain “guilty pleasure” aspect to Coldplay. They were a band that wasn’t at all cool to like, yet grew immensely popular with each album. The formula seemed simple enough: combine the angst of Radiohead with the stadium appeal of U2. They weren’t the first to try that in the wake of OK Computer and the absence of a late-‘90s Joshua Tree, but they were able to coast on it for a while.
In fact, much of the backlash on the band seemed to arise after that Seth Rogen movie, as people tried to figure out what was so annoying about the band. Listening to their debut today, it’s clear who the band is, even though singer Chris Martin hadn’t met Gwyneth Paltrow yet, or perched himself at the front of too many stages playing piano, or doomed his bandmates to the same anonymity that befell the members of Matchbox 20, Maroon 5 or Counting Crows that weren’t Rob Thomas, Adam Levine or Adam Duritz, respectively.
What makes Parachutes such a good album—that is, unless, you hate Coldplay—is its simple dedication to songs, played with a minimum of bombast. This isn’t the type of thing you’d expect to hear played by a local band in the corner of a club, but move that scenario to a small theater and it fits better. Clearly, these guys had ambition.
Ultimately, four of the songs were hit singles. Of those, the biggest (and best) were “Yellow”, which is about as loud as they got at this point, and “Trouble”, which would find its way into any number of MTV reality shows to illustrate someone’s unique strain of inner turmoil. “Yellow” in particular demonstrates perfection in simplicity, another case where changes you’ve heard countless times can form something stirring, whatever the hell he’s on about. “Trouble” was enough to keep him writing at the piano, ensuring a decent formula for future hits—best exhibited here in the closing “Everything’s Not Lost”. “Shiver” is an admitted Jeff Buckley homage, but only if you think about it, while “Don’t Panic” (itself re-recorded from an earlier EP) goes by awfully quick.
The album could even be slotted into the folk-rock category of adult alternative, as demonstrated by the slower, moodier “Spies”, “Shiver” and “We Never Change”. One song that seems of its own breed is “High Speed”, which makes sense, since it was one of the earliest songs the band had completed; its placement on the album provides a nice change of mood. And there’s even a “hidden” track, which they’d do again.
This is not meant to convert anyone on the opposite side. We were originally drawn to the band on the basis of “Yellow”—or more specifically, its video—and were very pleased with the rest of the album. And it’s refreshing to throw it on again all these years and generations later to find that it’s still pretty good.

Coldplay Parachutes (2000)—4

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