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In Defence Of...

In Defence Of: Coldplay The Quietus , June 10th, 2008 11:49


In defence of: Coldplay

By Sarah Bee

People hate Coldplay. It's not hard to see why; their hugeness and the things that go into being that huge have made them eminently loathable. The blubbery songs and nothingy lyrics that seem to pander to the soulless oaf we all want to elbow in the face at gigs. The actress wife and silly-named offspring, the solemn charidee pronouncements, the unrelenting earnestness. And, argh, the pernicious wider influence. Don't it make you wanna projectile-vomit?

Most people who hate Coldplay, though, have heard them a lot and listened to them little, don't look past their preposterous massiveness, and can't see through to their fastidious pop brilliance and big, bulgy heart.

It's probably different if you were introduced to them via 'The Blue Room EP', their first Parlophone release in 1999. (Full disclosure " it was one of the first CDs I was sent as a scaredy kid suddenly writing for the venerable music press, and it resonates for me with all sorts of poignancy. So yeah, I'm biased. And yet.) Everyone loved it " it was a brilliant statement of intent, meticulous and gorgeous, atmospheric and dark as you like. It was bewitching " gentle, but blooming with the swagger-free confidence that would eventually fling them into the kind of enormity human beings aren't really built to cope with. But they do.

This is the thing " vast as they are, they're still that band at heart. They've developed but haven't lost their essential self, that smudge of real darkness and softness. They're melancholy and uplifting often in one breath, fiercely sincere, but with a sense of self-awareness and silliness that gets missed. They're in near-perfect balance with themselves " the grandeur is kept in check by the humility. (When Chris Martin burbles away onstage thanking the crowd, it's genuine, but it's also essentially warding off the evil spirits that make ungrateful bands go all to shit.)

The tension between shuffly, excruciating meekness and unabashed bombast is delicious. They have balls galore " they've spent nearly ten years coming to terms with their own bigness and stopping it consuming them. You may think you see bloat, but they work hard to stay lean " you might perceive blandness, but they're constantly inventive. They are fucking staggering live. And they are endlessly warm. They mean it, and you can trust them. You can.

You can carry on indulging in your hate if you prefer " it can be fulfilling as hell, let's admit. But if you suspect you might get more out of the alternative, there are ways to get there. Ignore the singles and listen to the albums. Disregard the dickheads who lumbered on board at the 'Yellow' stop. Forget that they've sold a billion squillion records and that the guy who was sick on your feet on the nightbus owns A Rush Of Blood To The Head. Listen to the giddy, pounding title track of the new album over and over until you go all shivery. And if you feel you want to roll your eyes at the overt Beatling of 'Violet Hill', consider what would happen if Oasis came out with something like that now. People would be leaping out of their baths and running down the street in shock, by God. (Yes, and that is a hint of 'Venus in Furs' in the guitar. Listen!)

They are a great band, Coldplay, and if they'd given it up after Parachutes when everyone still loved them, something would be missing, and our musical landscape would be that bit more barren.

But I suppose you can blame them for Snow Patrol.