Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Coldplay - Myloxyloto, the scissor tool and how to be relevant.
Ahhh, there's nothing like it when you're a closet rock fan in a rap world. The way the cymbals sparkle, the way the vocals soar, the teles crunch through vintage valves, the melodies...oh the tunes!! Yes sir. Nothing like buying rock music after a month of producing hip-hop.
So I've been eagerly awaiting Coldplay's new album since their glasto set back in the summer, and it's great to finally have it on the stereo. It's a great listen - full of hopeful, uplifting tunes and none of that default mid-tempo stuff that put so many people off.
Anyone who's familiar with U2 will instantly recognise the influence of Brian Eno, not just for his trademark keyboard/sampler sounds that litter the soundscape but also the tightness and variety of the arranging which is the new album's greatest aspect.
So it seems whilst epic music (aka The Big Music) is very much alive and well, the days of the 70-minute epic are over. No one has the attention span for it any more. Even Radiohead's latest album was, by conventional standards, EP-sized. People just aren't keen for more than 45 minutes of one artist in one go.
But this may be no bad thing in general, and I definitely think in Coldplay's case, it's a great thing. In the space of three albums the band have learnt how [slash been forcibly made...] to massively reduce the amount of time it takes for them to say what they need to, and in so doing, learnt to say a lot more to boot.
This is something I greatly admire in an artist - the abililty to be concise and to be articulate, which often requires a willingness to strip things right down to their core - a producers' job that artists often squirm at and requires a huge amount of trust to even begin. You see nothing is a given in the music world. You're only as good as your last single. You have to keep ahead of the pack if you want to stay in the race at all. Most bands fade away into obscurity after 3 or 4 albums because they stop saying new things and stop reaching out to an audience beyond their committed fans. Chris Martin said recently he's not interested in being 'relevant', and that may well be the case as far as he's concerned. But his band have done exactly the thing they needed to do to remain so and I expect the album sales will reflect this come Christmas time.
And I reckon there's something profound here... Music is a very revealing art form. People need no formal training to appreciate it or to criticise it, and can see through any kind of fakery. They can tell if you're lying because the music instantly loses its credibility. They can also tell when you're trying too hard or trying to pull the wool over their eyes. You can't fake this stuff. The only way you stay relevant is to stop trying to be relevant and just be yourself. Find whatever it is you were trying to say all along and then say that and do that with every ounce of your energy. Then the music reveals the honest artist behind it and draws you in, which, especially in this obsessively inquisitive age, is what the punters want.
But here's the crunch. In our time-concious, attention-deficit-disorder world, who has the time to wait 5 albums over 11 years for an artist to find their voice? You need a lot of people on your side if you're to be given that opportunity for that amount of time. Chris Martin can count himself blessed to have been given that chance when a huge number of other bands have found themselves dropped from labels or been bound up in crazy licensing fights or had albums shelved indefinitely like diamonds to stop them saturating the market before they ever got a chance to move on from their one top 10 single. And in some ways the worst offender of all is the listening public themselves, where music is like fashion and its a fad one day and old news the next.
But it's encouraging to me that there are examples at the very highest peaks of the music industry of this kind of trust and endurance, development and redefining in bands. It keeps me determined to follow in their manner and to try to be every ounce the only thing that offers me the chance of thriving in this world - myself.