To set the scene; you’ve just sold an incredibly unexpected eight million copies of your immense and indisputably magnificent debut album, ‘Parachutes’ which is now able to take its well earned place amongst the most popular records of 2000. The melody of ‘Yellow’ seems forever laced into every hum in Britain, You’re rapidly being hailed as musical geniuses and rightly so, to voice my avidly fanatical Colplay bias and the phone is red-hot practically spontaneously combusting with countless invites to Showbiz gatherings, Life is good. Then through the media induced frenzy that encompasses you and between the plethora of elebrity congratulations and numerous awards, anticipation of your next move finds abundance, and begins to settle on your every conscious minute with the question ‘What the hell do we do next? ‘ ensuing.Order now
This was the situation that Coldplay found themselves in, although they didn’t have to look very far for advice. In Bono of U2 fame, who invited them to perform at Slane Castle and even managed to weave a few bars of ‘Yellow’ into U2’s set, and in Echo & The Bunnymen’s, Ian McCulloch, who has become a kind of paternal influence on the Boys of late.
For a short lived period at the dawn of the 80’s The Bunnymen and U2 endured a fierce rivalry, both assured of the overcoat clad, young one idolising, Student vote, and both aspiring to something much more befitting in the case of U2 at least. As erstwhile Bunnymen manager Bill Drumond relates in his book ‘forty five’, ” the road forked when The Tube screened U2’s open-air concert in Red rocks, Colorado and the stadium circuit was theirs for the taking. Echo & The Bunnymen’s subsequent fourth album, Ocean rain, failed to compete with U2’s level of success. U2 led by the enigmatic Bono went on to become one of the biggest bands of all time. Echo & The Bunnymen didn’t. I am not one to suggest that size and quality should ever be equated, but for every “next U2” that British guitar music has spawned over the last 20 years, countless more have fallen short of the mark and had to settle as heirs to Echo & The Bunnymen.
We are spoiled for flawed masterpieces, cantankerous geniuses, heroic follies and glorious near misses, by now the British public are as accustomed to seeing great bands falter on the edge of the big time as we are to watching the England football team crumple in a quarterfinal. It doesn’t make them any less inspiring but it would be nice from time to time, to see one go all the way? So it’s not just beleaguered EMI board members who relish the thought of Coldplay becoming a world class concern.
Here are songs so astonishingly brilliant as to warrant the entrancement of a Glastonbury Audience a full two months before their release, yet through them ring true such outrÃ© influences as The Flaming lips opaque song titles such as The Scientist. And Sigur Ros the overwhelming washes of melody its an amazingly potent combination. The only question previous to the immense “A Rush of Blood to the head” has been whether the fresh faced quartet are ready to accept their divine right to be mentioned in the same breath as the world’s greatest bands.
Judging from Chris Martin’s recent comments, the answer, with reservations is, YES. And with “A Rush of Blood to the Head” I think the rise and rise of Coldplay seems imminently assured. To produce a goal-post moving, earth-shattering, unprecedented compilation of emotive songs, with the power to set a new extraordinary standard, bring rapture to an audience, “rock the music world” and dismiss any burden imposed by its predecessor should be the objective of any esteemed band when embarking on a second album.
This task may be a mammoth one to any band when conducted properly, but when the band is Coldplay and the predecessor to be dismissed is the extraordinary ‘Parachutes’ the only decent way to supercede it is to create something truly magical. Any burden of expectation imposed by ‘Parachutes’ lasts approximately two seconds, the time it takes for the curtain raiser ‘Politik’ to make its thunderous arrival. Parachutes’, an understated affair borne to unexpected heights on the slight shoulders of Yellow and Trouble shimmers into view with “Don’t Panic’s” rippling guitar and fragile assertions that, ” We live in a beautiful world, yes we do”. To provide stark contrast ‘Politik’s’ first line commands ” Look at earth from outer space,” to a back drop of Guitarist Jonny Buckland’s, Bassist Guy Berryman’s and Drummer Will Champion’s unceremonious thwacking of their instruments in intense unison, an aural approximation of a Clenched fist, it appears Coldplay have finally found their gears marked Loud, Fast and Angry.
Apparently, ‘Polik’s’ original sentiments, inspired by the events of September 11th were far more explicit, But Martin’s anguished, mantra-like pleas “Give me strength reserve control/ Give me heart and give me soul” are more prayers of despair than podium thumping activism, and his final refrain “Give me love over this” is hardly “rage against the machine”. Sounding simultaneously direct and elusive has served mentor Bono’s U2 well what is ‘Where the Streets have no Name’ actually about? similarly it cloaks Martin’s lyrics in mystery while inducing an evocation of deepest sincerity and profound intimacy, although the exact message remains indistinct. ‘Politik’ also reveals another weapon in Coldplay’s armoury, namely the tendency to up their game towards the end of each song. Three minutes in abruptly it fades to just synth hum and piano before unfurling into a majestic, extended coda, the calm after the storm. Its almost as though they gave themselves five minutes to announce to the world how far they’ve come, and succeeded.
Martin has on a number of occasions intimated that his songs are either about girls or death, in the case of ‘In My Place’ Girls are the operative theme. Founded on Buckland’s exquisite chiming guitar figure, which martin has credited as inspiring Coldplay to overcome their post-‘Parachutes’ anxieties and continue. It’s a grand and graceful affair, which should give the manufacturers of lighter music a welcome fillip at many a gig to come. The oldest song here, it provides a soothing respite and creates an all round more uplifting and unambivalent aura, following ‘Politik’s’ state of world-agitation.
If ‘In My Place’ is consolidation ‘God Put A Smile Upon your face’ is revelation, like the other gems, ‘Daylight’, ‘A Whisper’ and ‘The Scientist’ it was manufactured in a sudden two-week burst of raw creativity. Coldplay have rarely been lauded for their rhythm section- a small cash prize is available to anyone who can hum a ‘Parachutes’ bassline from memory- But here, while “funky” may be stretching it, their exhilaratingly Kinetic. Against Champion’s enforcing throb, Berryman’s agile bass and Buckland’s guitar slithers.
Martin, meanwhile manages to delve amid the usual self-rebuking paranoia you’ll lose count of how many times this album refers to loss: of love, of direction, of control and pull out, of all things a “Honey, Honey”. It appears as thought the choirboy innocence so crucial to previous success has been superseded by something richer, wiser and yes, sexier. Those singing lessons are starting to demonstrate their worth. ‘The Scientist’ is very much the frontman’s show: a desperately sentimental and sad piano-led elegy to a failed relationship, deepened still by a forlorn request to “take me back to the start.
Martin is on heart-melting form as his bandmates manage to generate a slow-burning majesty reminiscent of Raiohead’s ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, the set-text for students of acceptable stadium balladry. Hollywood soundtrack writers will be jamming the managers phone line looking for a freshly minted, classical weepy. It is profoundly emotive and tingles with imminent ubiquity. ‘Clocks’ follows, carried by an avalanche of a piano figure which may seem pompous if it were not that Colplay, by nature are potently bombast.
Genius is again clearly demonstrated in the soaring middle eight, the most U2 ish moment of a very U2 ish album. Then ‘Daylight’ bursts in to a spiralling eastern guitar motif, mere millimetres from Echo & The Bunnymen’s ‘The Cutter’. Berryman’s finest bassline also resides here, and comes to a climax with the kind of psychedelic mantra redolent of The Verve. To maintain the momentum of the first half would be a superhuman feet, indeed Coldplay don’t.
It is tempting to agree with Berryman that the folky, featherweight, ‘Green Eyes’ along with the charmingly mellow ‘Warning signs’ should have been consigned to B-sides, although they does appear to constitute a deserved breather before the intense final stretch. ‘A Whisper’ clatters into existence in a flurry of crashing cymbals and turbulent guitars, which continues to the usual haven of the chorus, which in this case is not consolidating but to provide variety offers spiky tension. It is frankly not the kind of song you would have previously associated with Coldplay.
The magnificent title track could well find a place amongst album tracks from The Flaming Lips, and ballad-mode Radiohead, as it exposes previousely dormant aggression “I’m gonna buy this place and burn it down” inspired, according to Martin, by a phase of listening to Johny Cash and Nick Cave. Then it erupts into a chorus so amazing that it can be viewed on the same scale as one of mans greatest achievements, the Great Wall of China, it may also be compared to the aforementioned by the fact that it is probably visible from space.
Which just leaves ‘Amsterdam’ so named because-get this-that’s where it was written. A more sophisticated and mature relative of ‘Parachutes’ closer ‘Everything’s Not Lost’, it coos “Time is on your side. ” To a backdrop of tinkling ivories and lowing harmonies, then considers gliding to a fade before changing its mind and mounting a final crescendo instead. As ‘Amsterdam’s’ final piano chord wavers into silence the question to ask must surely be, Who wont find space in their CD racks for a piece of work so brilliant as ‘A Rush Of Blood To The Head?.
True it lacks some of those head-turning, What the hell was that? , moments attained by, say, The Flaming Lips, also those who enjoy burrowing for hidden depths will find little to satisfy heres, due to the sincere style of Chris Martin. But for everyone else this must be the apotheosis of Post-Radiohead guitar-rock, a collection of vastly moving songs, that will render even the biggest stadium venues as intimate as bedrooms. U2 Radiohead… Colplay? It would seem so.