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Coldplay

With the Britpop fad fading as a new millennium approached, COLDPLAY had picked an awkward time to fit their alt-pop sensibilities into its fickle equation. However, the strength of their initial songs such as `Yellow’ and `Trouble’, gave the music biz a kick up the noughties, as the quartet duly went from strength to strength; anyone who’s not heard of COLDPLAY (or indeed singer Chris Martin’s celebrity marriage to Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow, must surely be from another planet.
Formed while studying at the University College of London between 1996 and early 1998 by the aforementioned frontman/pianist Chris Martin and Phil Harvey (the latter would become their manager/financer/5th member), plus guitarist Jonny Buckland, Edinburgh-born bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion. These VERVE-inspired mellow-ites issued a limited pressing of 500 copies of their self-financed `Safety’ EP, and after interest from Fierce Panda Records (who released a sophomore EP, `Brothers & Sisters’), the quartet looked set to conquer the indie charts with their new style of JEFF BUCKLEY-esque melancholia.
1999’s `The Blue Room’ EP – their first for Parlophone – featured the classy Chris Alison-produced track `High Speed’, a dreamy “psychefeelia” song: touching, moody and soft, oh so soft, while finale song `Such A Rush’ was another choice cut. Supporting tortured Head brothers SHACK, enabled the band to delve further into the twisted world of emotional rock and reach deeper into the minds of fans who had not yet overcome the departure of Brit-pop and exponents such as TRAVIS. `Shiver’ was their first to break into the UK Top 40, however, this would be well surpassed when their follow-up `Yellow’ slid into the Top 5.
Parent album PARACHUTES (2000) {*8}, received rave reviews from all and sundry and shot into the UK charts at No.1 – it would subsequently touch American hearts and souls not long afterwards. Warm, melancholy and passionate were a few select words to describe this Mercury Prize nomination, which also featured a further Top 10 hit and Virgin playlist fave, `Trouble’. Lush and literate, group compositions such as the excellent `High Speed’, `Spies’ and `Sparks’ were effective if not rather horizontal and FM-friendly.
The lads were back on top form (and No.1) in 2002, come the release of their second full-length album, the Ken Nelson-produced A RUSH OF BLOOD TO THE HEAD {*8}. It displayed all of the same qualities of the first set, although the songs seemed to sit with the listener longer. An example of this was the No.2 hit single `In My Place’, a poignant but uplifting track that showed-off Martin’s voice well, not to mention the rest of the group’s excellent musicianship. The album glided from one song to the next, like a paper aeroplane in the breeze; examples `Politik’, `God Put A Smile Upon A Face’ and `Amsterdam’. At times, sounding almost identical to RADIOHEAD or ye olde ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN, Martin must’ve taken notes from the old post-new wave romantics, as at the end of 2002 he began dating a certain actress named Gwyneth Paltrow (he married her on 5th December 2003). Turn on the TV and you would probably hear some commercial or cult programme use `The Scientist’ or further Top 10 hit `Clocks’ as themes – the world was indeed progressing and COLDPLAY were winning Grammys.
Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, COLDPLAY’s lugubrious, song-for-the-common-man graft was everywhere, especially in the summer of 2005 with the simultaneous release of Top 3 single, `Speed Of Sound’, and transatlantic chart-topping third album X&Y (2005) {*7}. It was the 80s all over again as younger bands aped Thatcher-era post-punk desolation (in a wealthy Blair-ite present) and Chris Martin became a BONO for the Ikea generation, minus the politics and plus a barrow-load of pained platitudes. A RICHARD ASHCROFT-guesting appearance at that July’s Live8 further endeared them to the masses, while another couple of smash hit singles, `Fix You’ and the KRAFTWERK-inspired `Talk’ both went Top 10. While RADIOHEAD searched their own souls for transient electronica, COLDPLAY played their anthemic cards close to their hearts on arena-rock fillers from `Square One’ to `Twisted Logic’ and the official hidden track `Til Kingdom Come’.
It was only a matter of time – an unrushed three years to be exact – that COLDPLAY would entrust the qualities of brainiac part-producer ENO to work on chart-topping album number four, VIVA LA VIDA OR DEATH AND ALL HIS FRIENDS (2008) {*7}; the sleeve artwork stemming from a painting depicting the French Revolution by Eugene Delacroix. Exploring outside their safe-rock perimeters and pulling out all the stops while combining orchestras and blasting guitars, Chris’s voice was masterful on major hits `Violet Hill’ and the classic No.1 title track. Hot on its proverbial heels, was the album’s part-remix addendum, released separately as PROSPEKT’S MARCH (2008) {*5} EP/mini-album. Featuring a JAY-Z duet version of `Lost’ and other such delights as Top 30 variation, `Life In Technicolor II’ and the almost folky `Now My Feet Won’t Touch The Ground’, it at least showed COLDPLAY could break from the norm. The 70s were re-captured somewhat with COLDPLAY’s attempt to get us all festive via `Christmas Lights’, a reasonable hit on both sides of the Big Pond.
MYLO XYLOTO (2011) {*6} stretched their run of consecutive chart-toppers to five, but it was hardly the innovative set expected when ENO was once again lending studio time; the fact is it the production was down to Markus Davis, Daniel Green and Rik Simpson and only overseen by the former ROXY MUSIC icon. Their ill-advised attempt to secure some pop credibility via their duet (`Princess Of China’) with lapdance-pop star RIHANNA left a bittersweet taste, although, in stark contrast, the set heralded one of the new decades most anthemic and hook-line pieces in `Paradise’. If Martin wasn’t exactly a clone of BONO or THOM YORKE, further hits like `Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall’ and `Charlie Brown’ went a long way to cementing the concept.
A break-up record in many aspects, although not with the band (just Chris and actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s divorce), GHOST STORIES (2014) {*6} had a mournful, melancholic mood to each and every track. Soft-rock for modern-day musos unaffected by any austerity cutbacks, confessional Chris crawled from the wreckage by way of big hitters, `Magic’, `A Sky Full Of Stars’, `Always In My Head’ and the equally syrupy, `True Love’. Was their really any necessity for the CD/DVD, GHOST STORIES LIVE (2014) {*5}? – recorded all around the globe.
Subsequently unveiled at the tail-end of 2015 (probably to avoid clashing with ADELE’s return to the fray), COLDPLAY danced their way to one spot off the top of the transatlantic charts with A HEAD FULL OF DREAMS {*6} – their swansong set!? Fully free and feeling on top of the world after the lows of divorcing Gwyneth P, Chris Martin (and Co…) focused on bringing about a gossamer glitz to half the songs on board here, but its again in his softer moods that his soothing voice sparkles with all the anticipation of an impending Xmas. Collaborating with everyone from NOEL GALLAGHER (on er… `Fun’) to BEYONCE (on `Hymn For The Weekend’) – there were others! – the stadium stars play cold and collected on post-yuppie soft-rocker singles `Adventure Of A Lifetime’ and `Everglow’ (STEVE WINWOOD, anyone?).
Long-time critics would have a field day. Ironically, once BOWIE and ADELE respectively relinquished the UK No.1 spot, it was filled by COLDPLAY’s set (10 weeks into its chart run).
© MC Strong 2002-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS May2012-Feb2016

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