Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cold Shark, Jumped

I remember when I first saw the video for Coldplay's "Yellow," the one with Chris Martin walking on the beach, a sort of goofy, gangly, slightly malnourished aspiring rock star on the brink of fame. The song was tremendous, the video was stark and oddly captivating, and luckily enough there were other solid tracks on that debut cd, "Parachutes," notably "Trouble," "Shiver" and "Everything's Not Lost" - a band, and a frontman, were clearly on their way. And we were fully on board.

I saw them live on their first US tour, they didn't disappoint. Can't exactly say the same for the subsequent studio efforts, which were OK - in general - but seemed to spend less and less time on iPod auto-repeat, which is never a good sign, especially for one of my core bands. Martin's lyrics skewed to the overwrought, and when he went simplistic ("Fix You" comes to mind) the accessibility carried with it a degree of arrogance that was off-putting. Along the way, he married a frequently insufferable movie star, had some kids - we applaud that around here - and is to be commended for successfully avoiding the steady flow of "exiting the Waverly Inn" photos that plague most celebrity relationships.

All of which leads to the band's current release, "Viva la Vida." We saw the Apple commercial like everyone else, "pre-ordered" the cd to get instant access to that title track and enjoyed it for a few days. Then came the formal launch, and based on the 30-second previews of the individual songs that iTunes makes available, we probably wouldn't have thrown down for the balance, but when the e-mail arrived indicating that our credit card had already been charged, by virtue of the pre-order (smart strategy, that), we went in and took delivery of the rest of the disc. Then we rented a kayak on a beautiful late-spring day and spent the better part of three hours listening to it.

And the results were not great. More treatments than songs, really, a few decent moments but nothing very memorable and nothing that comes close to the minimalist brilliance of "Yellow" or those early days. "Lovers In Japan/Reign Of Love," was pretty much the high-water mark for me.

I would love to know which of these songs is the one that Martin boldly described a few months ago as a piece of music so good that we all needed to "hear it before we die." I'm assuming he's talking about the single/title track, but he may be overstating things a bit. It's a fine song, but I'm not sure I needed to hear it before lunch, let alone before going to that great jam session in the sky. Although maybe that was his point all along - a study in prescient humility as opposed to the boastful way the comment was widely perceived. "Listen to this before you die, because once you get upstairs - and are confronted with the talent that has gone before (Jimi Hendrix, anyone? Elvis? Janis? Little Johnny Lennon?) - me and my brooding pals are going to be reduced to policing up amplifier cables and stray cigarette butts."

Let's just put it this way, Chris, and I know it's not a formal competition, but when Tom DeLonge is making music that has more appeal and iPod staying power than yours, I think we can all agree that we're dealing with a case of significantly unfulfilled potential. And I'm coming around to the realization that Coldplay may really have only been a slightly longer-lived version of Travis, The Cranberries or, if you want to get right down to it, Chumbawamba.

All of which is a fairly long and tortured way of reporting to the readership that when it comes to Coldplay, and particularly Viva la Vida, the verdict here comes down to two simple words:

Shark. Jumped.


Blogger Vanessa Shannon said...

Bummer to hear....I LOVE Coldplay but havent had a chance to hear the new CD....I do love the title track though, very catchy.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. So sad. Any time a guy openly states that he "feels compelled to succeed because his wife was engaged to Brad Pitt," (as he recently admitted in Rolling Stone) one can't help but see him as a bit insecure. Perhaps he's overcompensating??

10:55 PM  
Blogger LiteralDan said...

I think A Rush of Blood to the Head is a pretty awesome album, but I'm sure it will always be all downhill from there.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

I'm not really a Coldplay fan, but I am a fan of your site and always glad to hear what you have to say.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Lydia said...

Are you in the biz? Your review could be written by an industry pro, only better.

Speaking of shark, did you see the puppet video I posted on my blog last week? Look in my archive list for "Octopus's Garden as Puppet Therapy."
Girls might like!

8:19 PM  
Blogger MsPea said...

"Viva la Vida" kindda weird to those into a Coldplay and its kind., and when they put Viva La Vida as a title track it sounds like Ricky Martin or Spice Girls, to me... What a shame..
Chris must now listen more of Yellow or Trouble each day..

12:37 AM  

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