Sunday, June 1, 2008

Anticipation, Trepidation and Coldplay

I haven't heard the new Coldplay record, and I'll admit right now that I'd really like to. Sure, I've been disillusioned with their work in the past. I loved A Rush of Blood to the Head, and was living in Italy for a summer when X&Y released. I walked to the only record store I knew about and bought it for almost 18 euro, which is quite a bit to pay for an album that I ultimately denounced as trite...or if not trite, then trying absolutely too hard to do what people would expect and being almost embarrassingly strident in the process. Which isn't to say that I didn't listen to it over and over and over again on all my train rides across the Italian peninsula. It became the soundtrack to my hostel rooms, the theme behind my travel journaling, the tunes in my head as I traversed cobblestone roads. It was addictive not just because of my musical starvation at the time. I had objections, but I still....I don't know...liked it. I'm a sucker for epic.

Perhaps our journalistic self-consciousness is defeating us in the case of Coldplay, and that's why I enjoyed this review at Because I'm this curious about Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends, I've been reading all the reviews of it that come out. This can be a dangerous practice, and I'll be the first to tell you that even though I regularly write them, record reviews should be taken, absolutely 100% of the time, with a sizable grain of salt. This one expresses the same trepidation I feel on approaching a Coldplay LP. But it comes to the same bashful conclusion I came to with X&Y, that I arrive at with any album that probably won't enjoy the type of unashamed, all-out, under the radar praise that on-the-rise, independent artists can expect. It concludes that though the record comes late-ish in the band's career, though they're so universally loved that they're almost universally resented, though we probably would rather not like Coldplay albums at all so as to preserve any hipster cred we may have ever possessed, bands like Coldplay didn't acquire international stardom and (at least originally) respect by totally sucking. It's written considering the self-referencing Coldplay seems doomed to participate in. Here's the second paragraph:

There are those of us still anxious about Parachutes, because it presented a Coldplay that we could listen to. This band (that Coldplay) was, above all, beyond listenable and frequently good, a band we could knowingly hum because we personally knew bands exactly like it, and has sort of re-emerged despite the history. This is Coldplay re-becoming Coldplay, in lieu of a Coldplay that never was. This Coldplay un-congealing themselves from the giggles and pain of half a decade’s worth of P. Diddy, Cat Deeley, and a slew of other execrable copycats trying to play at the song this band never made. So, in effect, this is Coldplay being completely unoriginal, relishing that impropriety and just taking off with their high art/low art salad days. This isn’t a new “sound,” because Brian Eno isn’t a new “radical.” This isn’t a new “band,” because, like we all know, Coldplay don’t exist. Or, if this were a sound, it would be the sound of four people trying to high-five Win Butler at once. And if it were a band, I guess that band would be Coldplay.

Then he says he kind of liked it.

I don't know where I'm going with this, except that I've been thinking a lot recently about the self-conscious side effects of being any kind of critic, and how it was an occupational (and I use the word "occupational" quite loosely) slot I ended up in obliquely, accidentally. Because art has so much intrinsic value. Because no matter the result, someone worked so hard to produce this, this collection of songs, this, at its best, reflection of self. For what? To be judged? I think not.

Sorry. I digress.

So I haven't heard Viva La Vida yet. The side effect of no longer being the daily underling at any magazine (though I still contribute) is that I'm not within arm's reach of all the music my heart desires anymore. Sigh.

Here's what I have heard from the new album:

[MP3] Coldplay - "Violet Hill"

I'd be interested to hear your opinions.


c.alexander said...

There's a part in "Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World" where Murakami (or the narrator, rather) compares overweight women to big fluffy clouds that float around in the sky but don't have anything to do with him. He doesn't especially dislike them, they just go about their business and he with his. Then he meets this one chubby young girl dressed all in pink and finds himself inexplicably and unexpectedly drawn to her.

And that's pretty much how I feel about this Coldplay song.

mthrwdwn said...

out of all the artists i listen to, coldplay is kind of an outcast. when i was younger, i wasn't a fan. i thought they were weird (with lyrics like "for you, i'd bleed myself dry"), i wasn't amused.

but i've heard the new songs (you should go download one at their website, they're available). i personally think they're VERY good. in fact, viva la vida is creeping up to be one of my favorites.

Juliar said...

Colin. This could be the best comment I've ever received. Thank you.