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a really bad review of Coldplay's new CD


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The Case Against Coldplay

 

(the pictures in the article are amazing, if you have access to the New York Times web site, that is, like I do! :) )

 

By JON PARELES

Published: June 5, 2005

THERE'S nothing wrong with self-pity. As a spur to songwriting, it's right up there with lust, anger and greed, and probably better than the remaining deadly sins. There's nothing wrong, either, with striving for musical grandeur, using every bit of skill and studio illusion to create a sound large enough to get lost in. Male sensitivity, a quality that's under siege in a pop culture full of unrepentant bullying and machismo, shouldn't be dismissed out of hand, no matter how risible it can be in practice. And building a sound on the lessons of past bands is virtually unavoidable.

 

But put them all together and they add up to Coldplay, the most insufferable band of the decade.

 

This week Coldplay releases its painstakingly recorded third album, "X&Y" (Capitol), a virtually surefire blockbuster that has corporate fortunes riding on it. (The stock price plunged for EMI Group, Capitol's parent company, when Coldplay announced that the album's release date would be moved from February to June, as it continued to rework the songs.)

 

"X&Y" is the work of a band that's acutely conscious of the worldwide popularity it cemented with its 2002 album, "A Rush of Blood to the Head," which has sold three million copies in the United States alone. Along with its 2000 debut album, "Parachutes," Coldplay claims sales of 20 million albums worldwide. "X&Y" makes no secret of grand ambition.

 

Clearly, Coldplay is beloved: by moony high school girls and their solace-seeking parents, by hip-hop producers who sample its rich instrumental sounds and by emo rockers who admire Chris Martin's heart-on-sleeve lyrics. The band emanates good intentions, from Mr. Martin's political statements to lyrics insisting on its own benevolence. Coldplay is admired by everyone - everyone except me.

 

It's not for lack of skill. The band proffers melodies as imposing as Romanesque architecture, solid and symmetrical. Mr. Martin on keyboards, Jonny Buckland on guitar, Guy Berryman on bass and Will Champion on drums have mastered all the mechanics of pop songwriting, from the instrumental hook that announces nearly every song they've recorded to the reassurance of a chorus to the revitalizing contrast of a bridge. Their arrangements ascend and surge, measuring out the song's yearning and tension, cresting and easing back and then moving toward a chiming resolution. Coldplay is meticulously unified, and its songs have been rigorously cleared of anything that distracts from the musical drama.

 

Unfortunately, all that sonic splendor orchestrates Mr. Martin's voice and lyrics. He places his melodies near the top of his range to sound more fragile, so the tunes straddle the break between his radiant tenor voice and his falsetto. As he hops between them - in what may be Coldplay's most annoying tic - he makes a sound somewhere between a yodel and a hiccup. And the lyrics can make me wish I didn't understand English. Coldplay's countless fans seem to take comfort when Mr. Martin sings lines like, "Is there anybody out there who / Is lost and hurt and lonely too," while a strummed acoustic guitar telegraphs his aching sincerity. Me, I hear a passive-aggressive blowhard, immoderately proud as he flaunts humility. "I feel low," he announces in the chorus of "Low," belied by the peak of a crescendo that couldn't be more triumphant about it.

 

In its early days, Coldplay could easily be summed up as Radiohead minus Radiohead's beat, dissonance or arty subterfuge. Both bands looked to the overarching melodies of 1970's British rock and to the guitar dynamics of U2, and Mr. Martin had clearly heard both Bono's delivery and the way Radiohead's Thom Yorke stretched his voice to the creaking point.

 

Unlike Radiohead, though, Coldplay had no interest in being oblique or barbed. From the beginning, Coldplay's songs topped majesty with moping: "We're sinking like stones," Mr. Martin proclaimed. Hardly alone among British rock bands as the 1990's ended, Coldplay could have been singing not only about private sorrows but also about the final sunset on the British empire: the old opulence meeting newly shrunken horizons. Coldplay's songs wallowed happily in their unhappiness.

 

"Am I a part of the cure / Or am I part of the disease," Mr. Martin pondered in "Clocks" on "A Rush of Blood to the Head." Actually, he's contagious. Particularly in its native England, Coldplay has spawned a generation of one-word bands - Athlete, Embrace, Keane, Starsailor, Travis and Aqualung among them - that are more than eager to follow through on Coldplay's tremulous, ringing anthems of insecurity. The emulation is spreading overseas to bands like the Perishers from Sweden and the American band Blue Merle, which tries to be Coldplay unplugged. :lol: :lol:

 

A band shouldn't necessarily be blamed for its imitators - ask the Cure or the Grateful Dead. But Coldplay follow-throughs are redundant; from the beginning, Coldplay has verged on self-parody. When he moans his verses, Mr. Martin can sound so sorry for himself that there's hardly room to sympathize for him, and when he's not mixing metaphors, he fearlessly slings clichés. "Are you lost or incomplete," Mr. Martin sings in "Talk," which won't be cited in any rhyming dictionaries. "Do you feel like a puzzle / you can't find your missing piece."

 

Coldplay reached its musical zenith with the widely sampled piano arpeggios that open "Clocks": a passage that rings gladly and, as it descends the scale and switches from major to minor chords, turns incipiently mournful. Of course, it's followed by plaints: "Tides that I tried to swim against / Brought me down upon my knees."

 

On "X&Y," Coldplay strives to carry the beauty of "Clocks" across an entire album - not least in its first single, "Speed of Sound," which isn't the only song on the album to borrow the "Clocks" drumbeat. The album is faultless to a fault, with instrumental tracks purged of any glimmer of human frailty. There is not an unconsidered or misplaced note on "X&Y," and every song (except the obligatory acoustic "hidden track" at the end, which is still by no means casual) takes place on a monumental soundstage.

 

As Coldplay's recording budgets have grown, so have its reverberation times. On "X&Y," it plays as if it can already hear the songs echoing across the world. "Square One," which opens the album, actually begins with guitar notes hinting at the cosmic fanfare of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (and "2001: A Space Odyssey"). Then Mr. Martin, never someone to evade the obvious, sings about "the space in which we're traveling."

 

As a blockbuster band, Coldplay is now looking over its shoulder at titanic predecessors like U2, Pink Floyd and the Beatles, pilfering freely from all of them. It also looks to an older legacy; in many songs, organ chords resonate in the spaces around Mr. Martin's voice, insisting on churchly reverence.

 

As Coldplay's music has grown more colossal, its lyrics have quietly made a shift on "X&Y." On previous albums, Mr. Martin sang mostly in the first person, confessing to private vulnerabilities. This time, he sings a lot about "you": a lover, a brother, a random acquaintance. He has a lot of pronouncements and advice for all of them: "You just want somebody listening to what you say," and "Every step that you take could be your biggest mistake," and "Maybe you'll get what you wanted, maybe you'll stumble upon it" and "You don't have to be alone." It's supposed to be compassionate, empathetic, magnanimous, inspirational. But when the music swells up once more with tremolo guitars and chiming keyboards, and Mr. Martin's voice breaks for the umpteenth time, it sounds like hokum to me. :rolleyes:

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ive always HATED the ny times' date=' its a horrible newspaper.[/quote'].

 

Well probably because you're a 17-year old kid from a town like Orlando, which makes cardboard seem interesting by comparison.

badgerfan, You don't have to be so rude just because *gasp* someone has the audacity to have a different opinion than your own! *gasp*

 

You only make yourself look like the idiot. I'm not trying to be mean here, really, I'm just being honest. You don't have to offend anyone just to try and get a point across. That said, I usually love the NY Times, but I disagree with practically every single thing that guy wrote. I just hate it when someone is assigned to review an album from a band it's obvious they hate.

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I don't really understand why people slag off the the newspapers / magazines that give bad reviews. It has always been like that, some people will like it, some people won't. Can't you respect someones opinion? I think X&Y is a great album, but if someone thinks it's crap than that's just fine with me.

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I don't really understand why people slag off the the newspapers / magazines that give bad reviews. It has always been like that' date=' some people will like it, some people won't. Can't you respect someones opinion? I think X&Y is a great album, but if someone thinks it's crap than that's just fine with me.[/quote']

you're right about that Wim, but this guy obviously had nothing but negative prejudices about Coldplay before listening to the album, ergo: he obviously wasn't judging this objectively. Smashing down Coldplay was his plan from the very beginning. This guy obviously has a different taste, and is fed up with Coldplay's success, and with the fact that there's so many Coldplay-like bands proliferating. "So", he says, "let's smash this in the ground, because I can't stand it". There's nothing wrong with not liking a band/musical genre, but to critisize a band solely on the basis of not liking them, is just NOT DONE according to me in professional press. This guy should write freelance for some sh*tty local local "newspapers" if you ask me: he's not being professional. The first thing you're thaught when you take a course in journalism is that you should be objective at all times. Having a personal opinion is the most natural thing in the world, but it shouldn't affect your writing for thousands of readers, period.

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ive always HATED the ny times' date=' its a horrible newspaper.[/quote'].

 

You only make yourself look like the idiot.

 

Actually, I would submit that calling the Times a "horrible newspaper" makes that guy look like an idiot. I don't care if you hate the New York Times, but it is our country's paper of record, like it or not. So to call it horrible makes one look, well, idiotic.

 

My guess, and I doubt I am wrong, is that the guy who doesn't like the Times doesn't have one smart thing to say about it. Prove me wrong and I'd be happy to apologize.

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The only problem I have with the NY Times is their formatting: the ugly font, the terrible pictures, the ridiculously thin Saturday editions. Otherwise, I've usually found myself agreeing with them, but this time...no. Not a bit at all.

 

And you know what? The entire article didn't really say much. Sure it gave a lot of information, but not ACTUAL information. He didn't really say anything about why he didn't like it, except for the fact that the lyrics didn't work for him and that it was "too perfect", but he never really explains his reasoning why they don't work for him (they sound fine to me), or how perfection is somehow bad. Hopefully this wasn't the actual review of the album, and that it was just a normal entertainment article. The New York Times doesn't have just a tremendous influence in NYC, but also in the US, and the world to a degree.

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Actually, I would submit that calling the Times a "horrible newspaper" makes that guy look like an idiot. I don't care if you hate the New York Times, but it is our country's paper of record, like it or not. So to call it horrible makes one look, well, idiotic.

 

My guess, and I doubt I am wrong, is that the guy who doesn't like the Times doesn't have one smart thing to say about it. Prove me wrong and I'd be happy to apologize.

Oh right, like I care if you apologize or not. I'm just sick of people throwing out insults just because someone dared to disagree with them. It does not make anyone look like an idiot for not liking a particular thing you yourself like. No one has to state a case for you, giving you reasons why they don't like a certain thing. Lord almighty.

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ive always HATED the ny times' date=' its a horrible newspaper.[/quote'].

 

You only make yourself look like the idiot.

 

Actually, I would submit that calling the Times a "horrible newspaper" makes that guy look like an idiot. I don't care if you hate the New York Times, but it is our country's paper of record, like it or not. So to call it horrible makes one look, well, idiotic.

 

My guess, and I doubt I am wrong, is that the guy who doesn't like the Times doesn't have one smart thing to say about it. Prove me wrong and I'd be happy to apologize.

 

 

Disliking the NY Times has nothing to do with someone's intelligence.

 

EDIT to add: I simply do not understand the Coldplay/Blue Merle comparison. I love both bands to death, and I think they sound nothing alike. :confused:

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Actually, I would submit that calling the Times a "horrible newspaper" makes that guy look like an idiot. I don't care if you hate the New York Times, but it is our country's paper of record, like it or not. So to call it horrible makes one look, well, idiotic.

 

My guess, and I doubt I am wrong, is that the guy who doesn't like the Times doesn't have one smart thing to say about it. Prove me wrong and I'd be happy to apologize.

Oh right, like I care if you apologize or not. I'm just sick of people throwing out insults just because someone dared to disagree with them. It does not make anyone look like an idiot for not liking a particular thing you yourself like. No one has to state a case for you, giving you reasons why they don't like a certain thing. Lord almighty.

 

Why do I get the sense that most people who know you find you really fucking annoying?

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Why do I get the sense that most people who know you find you really fucking annoying?

Why do I get the feeling you have nothing relevant to say? Oh right, because you don't.

 

EDIT to add: I simply do not understand the Coldplay/Blue Merle comparison. I love both bands to death' date=' and I think they sound nothing alike. :confused:[/quote']

Oh man ALR...I really don't know Blue Merle at all, except for one song that confused the hell out of us some time ago! That guy sounded exacty like Chris! First we thought it was something out of X&Y, then a something unreleased, then a cover...it was hilarious! :lol: Lyrically though, nothing alike.

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Keep in mind that criticism is okay as long as it's constructive criticism. However, this article simply consists of Coldplay- and "Mr. Martin"-bashing. Which is childish and unprofessional. So a slight frown to however this was at the NY Times. Bad move.

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