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Coldplay: A Retrospective Perspective

Written by Alex Langlands on 14th November, 2012

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Since their formation in 1996 at University College, London, Coldplay have been an influential force on the global music landscape. The band were quick to establish themselves, recording and releasing their EPs Saftey and The Blue Room over the course of 1999. Lead tracks See You Soon and Don’t Panic caught the attention of Label CEOs, Media identities, and the general public alike, as a new wave of British music began to sweep the world. EMI’s Parlophone Records were quick to take advantage of the band, signing them moments after the release of these EPs. After the likes of The Stone Roses and Oasis began to implode upon themselves, the nation was left looking for an answer, an answer that came in the form of Chris Martin and three of his best friends.

Parachutes – 2000

The commercial breakthrough of Parachutes erased all doubt EMI may have had in signing the band. Opening with popular track Don’t Panic, the mellow, relaxed mood of Coldplay’s roots were easily identifiable. Martin’s ear-piercing vocals and soft falsetto were prominent from the onset, and accompanied with the handiwork of guitar maestro Jonny Buckland, the pair made for a lethal combination that would captivate the hearts and minds of many, turning critics into fans within an instant.

The band began working on the album over the course of 1999 in a recording studio in Wales. It was here where the group recorded their breakthrough single Yellow, which would shoot the band up the charts and straight into number one. There are multiple interpretations and stories behind the origins of Yellow, including inspiration from the Yellow Pages to a more plausible inspiration from the band’s manager – who took the band outside for a pep talk during recording, telling them to “look at the stars, and how they shine”, subsequently influencing Martin’s lyrics. However, Chris denies these claims, telling Howard Stern that there was no real influence behind the song, and that each time he was asked, he would make up an alternative interpretation, confessing: “I like you, Howard, so that’s the first time I’ve ever told anyone the truth behind Yellow.”

Regardless of the inspiration, the power of Yellow is unquestionable. Coldplay’s expansive use of the stripped-back piano throughout their discography first came into play in the latter end of Parachutes. The arpeggiated sequence of Trouble follows on from the now distant memory of Yellow and develops into a powerful ballad over its short four-minute time frame.

Parachutes continued to rely on the use of acoustic guitars as opposed to the use of keyboards and percussion for their more recent sound. The closing tracks We Never Change and Everything’s Not Lost once again showcase the talent of the group, yet still hold the limitations of every debut album.

Parachutes topped charts in the UK and Norway, and was narrowly pushed into second in both Australia and New Zealand. Going seven times platinum in the UK and reaching platinum status in Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada, Coldplay were no longer a ‘new band’ on the scene, but rather a reputable force on the global music radar.

A Rush of Blood to the Head

After the success of their Parachutes Tour, which encompassed the UK and US, the band returned to the studio to begin work on their next instalment, A Rush of Blood to the Head. Beginning work shortly after September 11, the group were quick to lay the foundations for their sophomore release. After completing the recording process, the band began to doubt their efforts, reaching an agreement with their label to postpone the release until they were completely satisfied.

As opposed to the instrumentation evident on Parachutes, the band chose a more piano-orientated approach for their next collection of songs, comprising heavily of ballads. The presence of iconic track Clocks set the tone for A Rush of Blood to the Head, which would result in a powerful set of stadium anthems as they embarked on their next tour. Continuing this theme, The Scientist also became an international hit and would go on to win several MTV Video awards. However, the climax for many came in the form of acoustic track Green Eyes, which saw a stripped-back track win over the hearts of listeners.

The commercial success of A Rush of Blood to the Head was second to none, being certified eight times platinum within the UK alone and clearing over 4 million copies in the US alone. Not only did their sophomore album earn Coldplay a completely new arsenal of fans, but also solidified their presence on both radios and record players alike.

X&Y

Stemming from the success of their previous two albums, the release of X&Y defined a new period for the band, which would see their next set of albums redefine the Coldplay image, taking them beyond the realms of British pop music into international superstars. Recording for X&Y began in London early in 2004. Speaking out about the process, Martin told MTV that “we really feel that we have to be away for a while and we certainly won’t release anything this year, because I think people are a bit sick of us”. He later confessed that their overall plan was “to make the best thing that anyone has ever heard”.

Although that is quite an ambitious claim, X&Y to date is arguably their most groundbreaking and critically successful record. Unlike their previous works, which merely appealed to the mass market of the world, X&Y saw the group incorporate all member’s creative differences, and used these to create a hybrid of sound that would later be manifested through the release of their 2005 album.

Filled with iconic tracks such as Talk and Speed of Sound, the crux of the album became apparent early on. Easily their most famous creation, Fix You sees a five-minute musical build through the combined efforts of the band. Distinctly remembering the first time I heard the track, I can recall the shiver that shot down my spine the second that distinct guitar riff kicked in.

Once in a while a band release a song that defines a moment and represents a specific element that is unique to each individual. The likes of The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony is one of these; however, so is Coldplay’s Fix You. The musical rollercoaster will be the last relic of the group as the years pass, and although the other works are questionable, it is hard to discourage Fix You and its power.

Viva La Vida

What followed the release of X&Y was a mammoth 136-date Twisted Logic Tour, which saw the band cover all corners of the earth, and then begin an intense hibernation in order to top their previous record. Enlisting the assistance of famed producer Brian Eno, it was clear from the onset that their 5th instalment would be something special. They began to create songs that were “much more abstract, much more visual than before”, and musically “less straightforward, more oblique”. Martin began to draw on Hispanic influences, recording in churches in Spanish-speaking countries. Additionally, the influence of the French Renaissance period (evidenced by the artwork) also provided a backdrop for much of the lyrical content, especially Viva La Vida.

The orchestral roots present within title track Viva La Vida and Yes conveyed a more mature sound for the band. Differencing themselves heavily from their origins of acoustic, sparse compositions, Martin began to favour dense creations. Heavily relying on the beatwork from drummer Will Chapman, the group composed intricate pieces with the percussion in Lost acting as justification for such actions.

Released on 14th June, 2008 Viva La Vida saw success like no other Coldplay record. Although critically it may not have laid as much groundwork as X&Y, it was a commercial success. Achieving a platinum rating in a whopping twenty-one countries, it would go on to become the best-selling album of 2008 on a global scale. The image of Coldplay drastically changed with the release of Viva La Vida, transforming the quartet into an artistic group, playing stadium performances. Viva La Vida went on to win the Grammy for Best Rock Album, and also scored Best Single.

Mylo Xyloto

Coldplay’s most recent release, Mylo Xyloto, is by far their most controversial. A stark transition from their authentic sound of Viva La Vida, the band began to favour electronic origins. Teaming up with Rihanna and other famed producers, it was clear that it would take the form of a pop concept album. Martin spoke about the album, stating, “We have a song called Charlie Brown, which was the centrepiece of this other record we started first. We were playing the riff on an accordion and Guy came in one morning and said, ‘I’m afraid I have to put my foot down. I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I will not allow this song to be played on an accordion – that has to go in with the Mylo bunch’. So then we thought – let’s just make one album.”

Prior to its release, fans were somewhat confused as to what to expect. The release of electronic heavy Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall and acoustic Major Minus, caused some question as to what the album would entail. Yet at its release, it was clear that Mylo Xyloto was a pop-infused album. The second single, Paradise saw copious amounts of commercial success, receiving some of the longest global airtime on mainstream radios. Despite the change in sound, the album topped charts in over fifteen countries and received over ten platinum rankings.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqEYKkjQEt0

Coldplay Australian Tour November 2012

Saturday, 10 November, 2012
Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
Tickets on sale from 9.00am (local time), Friday, 25 May, 2012
From: http://www.ticketmaster.co.nz

Tuesday, 13 November, 2012
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Tickets on sale from 9.00am (local time), Friday, 25 May, 2012
From: http://www.ticketmaster.com.au or 136 100

Saturday, 17 November, 2012
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Tickets on sale from 9.00am (local time), Friday, 25 May, 2012
From: http://www.ticketek.com.au or 132 849

Wednesday, 21 November, 2012
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Tickets on sale from 10.00am (local time), Friday, 25 May, 2012
From: http://www.ticketek.com.au or 132 849

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