For all their reputation as posh dullards, few bands generate as much liking and loathing as Coldplay. That's been the case since Alan McGee's immortal 'music for bedwetters' jibe five years ago.
Yet Coldplay silenced some of the doubters with 2002's A Rush Of Blood To The Head, where they started shifting toward a similar rarefied territory as Echo & The Bunnymen. On this form, completely dismissing Coldplay began to look very churlish indeed. So what went wrong?
Firstly, X&Y played into their detractors' hands. In place of A Rush Of Blood's roaming adventure came stadium rock by numbers - all gloopy piano ballads, empty air-punching theatrics and lyrics a five-year-old could have written. If this wasn't bad enough, Chris Martin's distinctly un-rock'n'roll manner began to prove equally aggravating: akin to a bumptious medical student during rag week, endorsing Fair Trade, Oxfam and Make Poverty History with enough thumbs aloft gestures to impress Macca.
While still preferable to Thom Yorke's adolescent misanthropy, it wasn't for nothing that one perceptive critic found similarities between Martin's political hand-wringing and that of Tony Blair. All of which has apparently rankled with Coldplay, possibly explaining why their recent live shows have been shockingly good. Coldplay's key strength is uniting anthemic force with gossamer grace and on current form they're pressing those buttons so well, even the mush from X&Y finds much-needed grit and guile. Whether it's enough to banish the posh dullards tag remains to be seen.
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