Here’s a What If question for you:
What if Coldplay weren’t consistently treated in such polarity? Praised in such hyperbolic terms by zealots arguing they’re the Greatest Band of All Time? Derided and despised by those who nurture their bile toward the band with religious devotion (there’s a Facebook group called the “Anti Coldplay Faction”)
Is there a middle ground? I’d like to plant my flag in it.
Here’s my thesis: If Coldplay weren’t considered to be a Great Band for All Time, I’d be just fine with them. I admit: I own all their albums – even Parachutes¬ – and give them a spin (that’s a CD reference for those who don’t get it) from time to time. I prefer what Bono had to say about them – no not when he called Chris Martin a cretin – the part about them being good melodists.
But it’s this pushy, all-or-nothing stance that drives me bananas. If you follow popular opinion, you’ve got two choices: either Coldplay is the best band of our era, and destined for the Rock Hall, writing anthems for the people on par with all the greats, OR they’re a bunch of no-talent posers pastiching everything from the Beatles forward.
I propose a third option: Coldplay’s a good pop band.
Is that acceptable? Can I take that stance without being a wimp?
Sure, Chris Martin writes below-average lyrics full of couplets that sound great but contain a devastating dearth of substance, and which fall flat at adequately describing the depth of human emotion.
But that’s okay. It’s pop music.
Their instrumentation and melodic sensibilities are off the charts. “Clocks” still gives me chills. And that organ part at the end of “Fix You,” with those pounding drums? Yes, please. Chris Martin is a charismatic, polarizing frontman, and their work with Eno has produced some intricate, gorgeously-nuanced compositions. So that’s enough for me to consider them fascinating, engaging, but still not enough to make me consider them Great.
So, sorry to disappoint, but my reaction to the Coldplay Dilemma is finally resolved. The answer is “Yes.” Or perhaps “No.” Yes, they exist. They’re great at what they do. But no, sorry, I’m going to have to pass on the Pantheon of Rock nomination for the time being.
Coldplay’s never made me look inward in the way that the great bands do. But that’s okay. It’s a pretty high standard. I guess I still have to work through the feelings of pity for people who call Coldplay their “favorite band.” I’ll admit it; I don’t get it. I feel like saying, “Have you listened to The Joshua Tree?” What about Who’s Next? Or even The Suburbs?
Finally, after a half dozen listens through Mylo Xyloto, I’ve gotten to an acceptable place. The disc will soon be ripped, added to the iTunes library alongside Viva La Vida and its other brothers, and I’ll return to it from time to time. That’s enough for me.