Monday, 27 June 2011

A new era for Coldplay

Does anyone else find it amazing that Coldplay sound the way they do now?

What really impressed me about Saturday night's Glastonbury performance was not so much the new stuff, but that their first album's material - Yellow, Shiver et al - sounded as lively and as full of hope as the latest songs. Which is remarkable because 'Parachutes' is about as alive as me going for a run at 7.30 on a monday morning.

It's not so much that the songs are different, they're just being played with more energy. And I have to say I think it's wonderful to see. Parachutes very quickly established Coldplay as the kings of mid-tempo, emotional balladry, and subsequent records have, in a way, only been further essays in the same basic direction. But hearing these early songs again being played with the same vitality and passion as the newer stuff was a real treat, and a mark, I think, of even more good things to come...

The key to longevity in the music world is re-invention. U2 have done it at least three times. Radiohead similarly. It's rare for bands to be able to recontextualise their main ideas, to shed new light on the same basic message, but it is vital if you want to push past the 4/5 album mark and still be winning new fans, and crucially, to remain relevant. And happily, Coldplay look like they're finding it at last too, no small thanks I'm sure to the influence of Brian Eno, who's already been largely responsible for helping U2 to redefine themselves.

What I find really interesting in this is that the obvious freshness and vibrancy to their music these days  is now finding itself working backwards through their whole catalogue, as if this energy was there right from the off, only we weren't able to notice it. Listening again to 'A Rush of Blood...', you can hear it more now, particularly in the first half, but it's veiled, and muscled out by a stronger sense of seriousness - an attitude which prevails right up to their most recent records.

But it looks like the sun is finally coming out on them. They've found that they can do groovy; they can do party tracks; they can have fun - as U2 discovered during the 90's. What was crucial for this period in U2's career was that they repackaged their ideas, but didn't stray away from them. Strangely, the brighter and funkier the music got, the darker and more introspective the songs became. However shallow they tried to become, it was never possible for them to divorce the music and the message.

But Coldplay, by comparison, aren't laboured with quite the same lyrical intensity and missional ethos so I think a more laid-back, less heavy-handed approach is way more appropriate for them.

Certainly the Glasto set presented a band looking very at ease and having lots of fun. And it was certainly a lot of fun to witness too!


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