I thought there might come a time in my life where I would stop loving Coldplay. I mean, why wouldn’t it? I have moved in and out of phases my whole life — never latching onto one thing for more than a couple years, tops.
Music as a whole has proved to be different though. As I grow older, I’ve been hanging onto things I hung onto during my most formative years.
I think I really tried to shed Coldplay from my reserve. After I discovered the likes of Radiohead, The Smiths, Joy Division, even The Beatles in a way, I looked at Coldplay and scoffed. That’s amateur stuff. I’ve moved on to bigger and better things. I was almost embarrassed to say I liked them. Here was a band that I had discovered in my teenage years, a band I was so obsessed with, they became my whole life. I got every B-Side, rare track, live album, novelty video… Everything. All of it. They were The Greatest Band Ever. After I started distancing myself, when I graduated to the more talented, established and prestigious Radiohead, and then further onto indie-rock pioneers The Smiths, Coldplay were a blip in my history that I swept under the rug.
In an act of defiance against myself however, I pre-ordered Viva La Vida Or Death and All His Friends in 2008 after having been (secretly, shamefully) reinvigorated by the single “Violet Hill” which remains to this day one of their best, loudest, most kick ass rocking-est songs. It was an impressive album. A tight 42-ish minutes (which the band now insist is the ideal running time for an album, and it’s too bad they didn’t know that for X&Y. Love the album as I do, I just listened to it recently and it does drag a bit), it was ambitious and powerful, and really different from anything they’d done. It was mature and poetic (it didn’t have the same aggression as A Rush of Blood to the Head, which remains their best album). Whereas their “Twisted Logic” tour (which I attended in 2005, after spending the summer in New Zealand and listening to every Coldplay song a hundred times) was minimal, VLVODAAHF was exuberant and magnificent. It would be the kind of bombast and spectacle they would carry into Mylo Xyloto (an album title which still makes me grimace).
In MX I felt a change, though, like I could not love them after this. I sensed the lads were getting pretentious (Every Teardrop is a Waterfall. PUKE). Sorry, MORE pretentious than before. Than ever! They were becoming whimsical, sappy romantics which belied their earlier work, which at times was organic and honest, and other times aggressive and even political (“Politik” was the most punk rock I ever got in high school). I gave up. I couldn’t listen to it. With the exception of “Paradise,” which was gorgeous and lush and big, I point-blank refused to even try. I felt like they had gotten so far out of my reach, they were beyond saving.
Cut to a few months ago, a new track from a new album (Ghost Stories) emerged from the depths, the absolutely sublime and soul-wrenching “Midnight”, which drew comparisons to Bon Iver and Sigur Ros. It was disarming to say the least. Next was the single “Magic,” which, where I thought Midnight was understated and beautiful, I thought this was more hippy-dippy stuff. I mean, MAGIC? Ugh, gross!
Then of course, Chris Martin split up with his partner of over a decade, the mother to his children. Suddenly this impending Coldplay album was a breakup one. It shifted the expectations, and after I heard “Oceans”, which is the most honest-to-god callback to the early days (see “Careful Where You Stand“), I was excited about this band for the first time in 6 years.
Now having listened to Ghost Stories 4 or 5 times, I can say with full confidence (and a bit of resignation) that I will be a Coldplay fan for life. It’s just not up to me anymore.
This is the ambient, Tycho-like Coldplay album nobody asked for. It’s sleepy, melancholic, fluid and transcendent. The songs seamlessly blend, feeling altogether like a deep sleep. I hated “Magic” the first 20 times I heard it, but in the context of the album, it actually makes perfect sense. The track “True Love” starts out a bit questionably, but is salvaged by the understated and minimalist work of Jonny Buckland, whose guitar sings a devastating solo. The transition to “Midnight” causes a shift into the back-half of the album which is the same sad longing, but more of the spectacle that Coldplay is now renowned for. The climax of “Sky Full of Stars” has me picturing confetti cannons (which, at the Mylo Xyloto tour, they were already tapping into by song three). You hear that, Arcade Fire, Coldplay has the lock on confetti cannons.
GS ends simply and sublimely, with “O”, which has Chris Martin at the piano, ruminating through a melody that sounds like a rainy day.
So that’s it. They’re here forever. And they have always been a brotherly band, so they very well might be around literally forever.
p.s. I did eventually listen to Mylo Xyloto, and I actually found it to be very decent.