July 30, 2009

Death... and a Good Majority of His Friends

Happy "Marco Belinelli Day" everyone!

So... I think I've finally figured out the Coldplay thing. Um,
for those of you who aren't following (i.e., all of you), let me back up a bit; I've never taken to Coldplay the way the majority of my peer group has, and it's been a point of minor contention between me and some of my friends. In a nutshell, they have accused me of not liking Chris Martin & Co. simply because they're so popular, while I've steadfastly denied that and claimed that, "I just don't find their music all that interesting." Well today I had a bit of an epiphany. You see, I finally caved in and decided to put Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head on my iPod and give them a fair listen (I haven't purchased any new music in a long time, so I decided to raid my wife's CD collection). Before today, I had never heard either of those two albums in their entirety... I had only experienced the unadulterated mediocrity of X & Y and the good -- but over-hyped -- Viva la Vida. Anyway, as I was listening to the aforementioned two albums, I think I came to a realization that my friends are right... at least partially. I think I would like Coldplay more if they were a less heralded band, but I still don't think I would love them... and that, in turn, is why I dislike them. I'm guessing you didn't follow that -- I'm sure it even makes sense -- so let's see if I can break it down more clearly. It occurred to me as I listened how Coldplay is quite similar to Travis; both are soft rock bands from the UK, both have one song that I would count among my all-time favourites ("Why Does It Always Rain on Me?" for Travis; "Trouble" for Coldplay) and a handful of other songs I really like (including "Side", "Happy to Hang Around", and "Flowers in the Window" for Travis; "Yellow", "The Scientist", and "Viva la Vida" for Coldplay). The big difference is that Coldplay is HUGE, and Travis is just Travis -- a mid-size band who's known to people who are serious about their "Brit Pop", but not universally. To me, that makes it fun to like Travis ("Let me tell you about this cool Scottish band I like..."), but the lack of any sense of discovery makes it not fun to like Coldplay ("Let me tell you about this band that just sold out a massive stadium tour..." -- it just doesn't work as well). If the tables were turned and Travis was huge, I'd probably like Coldplay more and like Travis less. Does that make sense?

That "sense of discovery" thing is part of my issue, but I still think there's a deeper reason why I've always resented Coldplay -- I don't like the fact that they're quite possibly going to be remembered as the defining band of our generation. Coldplay? Really!?!? As I just explained, I've been unfair in judgement of Coldplay in the past. They're really good at what they do, which is create simple, well-crafted pop songs. That's a great thing, but there's no way you can rationally argue that they've made the best music of the "aughts". Bands like Copeland, House of Heroes, and Thrice have been much more daring in pushing the artistic envelope, while maintaining (especially in Copeland's case) the same pop sensibilities Coldplay displays.

[Side tangent: I think another thing that annoys me about Coldplay is the way they can lead to this exchange when shopping at an HMV:

"Excuse me, do you have the new Copeland album?"

"Did you say Coldplay?"

"No Cope-land -- like the guy from The Police."

"Oh, OK, let me check. (pause) We've got one called 'Dressed Up and In Line'."

"No, that's their B-sides album, the new one is called 'You Are My Sunshine'."

"(pause) Sorry, I don't see that in our system."

Anyway, it's just a frustrating coincidence that the name of the best band of the decade is phonetically similar to the biggest band of the decade... also, it annoys me that HMV doesn't stock Copeland CDs more thoroughly.]

I know I'll (likely) never succeed at sufficiently educating the civilized world about the greatness of Copeland, HoH, and Thrice -- it won't stop me from trying, of course -- and as a result I'm having trouble reconciling the fact that someday little Ray-Ray (my future son) might come up to me and say... so what was it like to be around at the height of Coldplay's career. How do you answer that, "Umm... very OK?" I mean, this isn't like being around for The Beatles or Nirvana or even early Oasis. It'll be even worse when he first hears about Nickelback ("Really Dad, they were the most popular radio band in the early part of the millenium... why didn't you do anything to stop it?" -- I tried, Ray-Ray, I really tried).

To be fair, the Coldplay boys have definitely played their cards right and genuinely deserve the fame they've cultivated. For starters, they do a really good job of selecting singles. You'll notice that all their songs I mentioned as favourites of mine have been singles. I feel this is something that few bands do well nowadays, with Copeland being the worst offender (if I was telling somebody about Copeland, their singles are generally the last songs I'd use to showcase them). Also, from all accounts, Coldplay puts on a terrific live show, and I can tell just from little TV things I've seen that Chris Martin is one of those rare front men who seems to have mastered the everyman-charm-mixed-with-rock-star-charisma thing. Still, I feel like they somehow outgrew themselves and seem destined to be remembered as a better band than they actually are.

So... here's my proposal: can we all just agree that Radiohead was the most important band of our generation? I mean, they were commercially viable, yet they still reek of artistic integrity. They put out two or three albums that are all-time classics (I don't know The Bends as well as I should, so I'm giving it a maybe) and even tried their hand at revolutionizing the way music is distributed (the pay-what-you-want gimmick with In Rainbows). Most importantly, I could happily bounce little Ray-Ray on my knee while listening to Kid A and discussing how dissonance can be a viable musical tool if used in the right way.

Hmm... I really hope Ray-Ray likes music.