Tuesday, June 21, 2005

On Cold Play

While the Coldplay debate has percolated among the cubes, I've been trying to put my thoughts together. How do I feel about Coldplay? Can I take a stand? Well, the answer is yes and no.

Here's how I became aware of Coldplay. Like most everyone here, I first heard their song "Yellow" from their first album. Really liked it. It must have had a lot of play since I don't usually drive and at home I listen to CD's, so somehow this hit song came to my attention. Was the song good enough to convince me to buy the album? Negative.

But, when Maria and I rented a car to visit her parents in New Jersey (pre-car ownership and pre-child days), the previous renter had forgotten to hit the eject button on the CD player. Turn the ignition, and there was Cold Play's first album blasting on the car stereo. We listened to the entire CD throughout the trip to New Jersey and on our way back and loved all of the songs.

Next, Maria buys me a Cold Play album for Christmas - Rush of Blood to the Head (can't remember the exact title or which album this is - 2nd or 3rd?). I like the song that was the big hit - the one with the haunting/overly dramatic piano intro that was used by a lot of television producers with montage clips to market the launch of new television series. I think HBO also used this music to market their movies in a commercial. But, I never listened to the rest of the album.

For you New Yorker readers, I'm sure you've seen the columns by Sasha Frere- Jones, the pop music critic. In addition to being a fantastic writer, I think she's very insightful and knows how to write about pop music in a way that shows how much she loves it, but in the end, she doesn't take it too seriously, because after all it's just pop music.

(On the New Yorker film critic side, by the way, I think Anthony Lane has the same balance when reviewing movies. A great writer who can make you laugh out loud. You can also tell by reading him that he loves everything about movies, even though he's constantly lampooning the industry. Unfortunately, David Denby has largely taken over the movie reviewing beat in the past year or so. He's a crank who wants movies to be like novels, and overall, I don't think he likes films at all But that's subject for another dialgue - Lane vs. Denby. )

Back to Coldplay, Sasha Frere Jones, captured my sense of the band in a capsule "Pop Notes" review she wrote that appears on page 26 of the June 13&20th Debut Fiction issue. Titled "Warm Milk," Sasha's basic thesis is that until their latest release - X&Y, Cold Play has not been a great band, but overall worthy of the success they've had. Here are a few quotes from that review:

" 'Comfort Music' sounds like an insult , no matter how you spin it. But it's an insult that the enormously popular English quarted 'Coldplay' is probably willing to endure, given that it has sold twenty million records filled with music that is sometimes sweet, sometimes warm, and sometimes fuzzy. And although this isn't the kind of thing that earns critical adoration, it's also true that Coldplay is expert at the form. Only a churl (Adam ) could resist their best singles: "Yellow," a piercingly sincere bit of high school poetry that is just as moving as they intended it to be, and the airy, hypnotic 'Clocks.'" (That's the song I referred to earlier in this post.).

Here's the best part:

"Up until now, this has been healthy. But on Coldplay's third album X&Y, the band has apparently caught the virus Significatio terribulus, a condition that previously afflicted bands such as U2."

There's more to read on about how successful bands that begin to take themselves too seriously get sidetracked. I have it at my desk if you want to check it out.

By the way, in the same issue, Roxy Music's Brian Ferry appears in one of those glossy celebrity-drive adertisements for Mandarin Oriental Hotels. Brian still looks foppishly dapper as ever and very well- preserved. How old is he now?


At 11:17 AM, Blogger KFW said...

Speaking of Coldplay and reviews, here is an excellent review from the New York Times, of all places.

NY Times
The Case Against Coldplay

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.

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Adam Zand said...

Hiya Tom F.,
Thanks for jumping into the PCG blog pool. I'll take the "Churl" comment to heart - my wife warned me not to be something a bit stronger on my way to work today. I'm intrigued by the adoration and disgust that this band gets. I'm intrigued enough to give them another try - especially after your roadtrip comment. I think Ashley on this blog is bringing me in a disc (no best ofs please - I want to see if they can keep it together for a full disc). I'll just try not to think of Radiohead's brilliance as I try CPlay out again.

I really like KFW's NY Times article when it came out, but again thought it was interesting that sister publication Boston Globe did an article semi-praising the band the same week.

BTW, I love Tom's calling out of the U2 comments. Besides for 'End of the World' and 'Beautiful Day' (just for NE Patriots affiliation), I have found Bono Vox (remember that brief branding?) and the men of U2 to be insufferable since "Unforgetable Fire." However: "October," "Boy," and "Under a Blood Red Sky" are all works of art (and passion).

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Brooke said...

I love Cold Play and the self-absorbed twenty-something angst-filled melodies they sing to me.

At 12:26 PM, Blogger DougH said...

I am old enough to comfortably avoid Coldplay without felling that I am missing a thing. What is a rock star without some measure of self-absorbed angst?

On the Bryan Ferry comment-- ah, the self-absorption without the angst. I never forgave Ferry for his cover of "These Foolish Things" but have since found his other records and Roxy Music's, to be irresistable when I come across them.

As for his age, I think it's a Dorian Gray thing. As for me, I can never look at him without thinking of former Houston Rockets player/punching bag/coach Rudy Tomjanovich (separated at birth?)

At 12:37 PM, Blogger Brooke said...

It is my opinion that music is not directly associated with age. Don't knock something because it's popular among us "youngsters." If you do that, you ARE missing out - Whether it's missing out on loving it or missing out on truly hating it. Regarding Cold Play, it's not as if it is a teeny-bopper boy band AND it is not as if the age differential among "the cubes" is all that vast.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger DougH said...

Now, now, I did not mean to be ageist or denigratory (is that a word?). It's just that my exposure to new bands in the last 10 years, unless I actually seek tham out, is their ability to hold my attention long enough for me not to change the channel during their predictable, obligatory appearance on Saturday Night Live (Modest Mouse, are you listening? Of course not, for you are surely deaf!).

btw-- Bryan Ferry will be 50 in September-- not so old, really

At 1:13 PM, Blogger Tom F said...

Yes, Bono Vox was a sad stage for U2. But overall, I'm an avid fan.

Boy, The Joshua Tree, Zooropa, and the last two albums have been high points.

Unforgettable Fire and War were good, but seemed too didactic for me. I'm a sucker for artsy poseurs rather than the overtly political stuff.

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Tim Burton said...

Tom F, I agree, but not about Zooropa. I think i actually gave that CD away. I only have one memory of that cd, when the edge is being tied up in a chair in a video. I didn't understand the meaning i guess.

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