3 July 2003 – James Is All Yellow
Aristotle once wrote: “Where there is a dearth of quality, mediocrity is King.”
And so it was when Parachutes landed upon us, and, it would seem, most of the time since. Because Coldplay write perfectly adequate songs, and have an almost original sound, and actually play their instruments, and do so perfectly adequately, and have clearly become a very successful “rock” band.
All very admirable, and, as Aristotle implied, given that there was absolutely nothing else around at the time, a very welcome distraction for the hordes of people sick to the core with manufactured vacuous pop. What’s wrong with that?
The problem with Coldplay is that they have their sound, their original songs, their success and all that, but somehow managed to make it as excruciatingly boring as possible. This is not meant in a personal sense (although they are unashamedly privately dull too), but in a musical one. Everything I have heard from Coldplay has been slow, preferably quiet, with a voice that floats over the top waiting to be blown away by a sheep’s fart. Coldplay are boring, and this is coming from a person who will turn up Radio 4 when the shipping forecast comes on.
People who know me well may say that my vitriol is inspired by envy. And they would be close, the key to my feelings about Coldplay is that I am, to a degree, resentful of their success, as I am the opposite to Coldplay, i.e. in an unsuccessful but interesting band (please see www.hebiteme.com for further evidence of this). But why do I resent Coldplay’s success and not that of countless other hugely successful bands/singers/artists/whatevers out there? I resent Coldplay’s success because they are successful and yet seem to be deliberately boring and therefore crap. Allow me to elaborate:
Way back when Parachutes had only just become the number one album, our friend Phil got us into a Coldplay gig at Oxford Brookes University. I was quite excited, because I like live music and hadn’t been to a biggish live gig for a while, let alone to one by the New Big Thing. There was a big noisy crowd of pissed up students, and they were well up for catching the crest of the new wave of music early, as well as hopefully a great gig, maybe even some crowd surfing. The band comes on, starts to play, the crowd goes mad. Then, after about one and a half songs, most people are just standing there. The ones that were jumping and shouting now look sheepish. People who came in late have a bit of a shout, realise they look a bit silly, and head to the large crowd at the bar. There is some gentle swaying, and that’s about it.
Some bands are better live, and some are not. Coldplay are of the latter. I wish my band could open for them, because I actually feel sorry for the audience. Being at a Coldplay gig is like putting on the Coldplay CD in your living room, but not being able to turn it down and have a conversation, and paying for the privilege on top. Because that’s what it’s like – the gig was exactly like the album. Nothing played in the slightest bit differently, not even a guitar solo. Hardly even any wrong notes. It was like a boy-girl-band/pop idol gig, but with no dancing, bright lights, fun, or jail-bait teens. Before I labour the point too much, a live gig is by definition unique, a one-off, and that it what makes it more exciting than just whacking on an album. Coldplay managed to remove as much of the uniqueness from it, and, in keeping with their general musical being, made the whole thing as boring as possible.
If greatness was measured by how many middle-class twenty to forty-somethings put on your album with the volume down under the conversation but over the “homemade” Tesco’s Finest French Onion soup, then Coldplay would have little or no competition. If, however, crapness was measured by the same people, dinner being over, suddenly getting up and saying “Ooh, lets put something more interesting on, shall we”, then my point has been proved many a time in living rooms up and down Middle England. Because honestly, how many people can actually have listened to an entire album’s worth of Coldplay without the need of strong locks on the doors, stronger medication, or good old-fashioned manacles. According to research, the average duration is 2.8 tracks, followed by a week off, just to clear the glazed expression that had formed across the victim’s face.
And finally, in answer to the question “OK then, so could you do better?”, I firmly and with a deep voice answer “Hell Yes”. That’s the whole point. Come to Cargo in Shoreditch on July 21st, and see a real gig, with some music that is not incredibly boring. Feel free to jump and shout and bonk in the audience, because to our music, you won’t look like a knob.