By Tom Martin
Everyone hates Coldplay, right? They’re a bit bland, I keep hearing. They’re uninteresting. The less discerning critics among us just brand them ‘rubbish’ in blasé tones and then indulge in the ultimate hypocrisy by championing Justin Bieber. Every time Radio 1 posts about them on Facebook, a thread riddled with anger, vitriol and disgust spools out of the comments section.
The thing is, I’m always slightly baffled by this outpouring of unsuppressed hatred.
Yes, Coldplay aren’t exactly the whipped-cream, whole milk caramel cappuccino of the world. But they’re not the watered-down ‘latte’ produced by the library coffee machine either. Their success isn’t built on clumsily assaulting someone’s beloved song with the Amen Break drumbeat and a new EQ that is 95% bass. Nor are they a manufactured X-Factor contestant with perfect hair and an adenoid problem, or an over-sexualised teenaged girl being fed overtly raunchy songs to twerk along to.
So what is it that people hate about them?
Chris Martin seems like a lovely chap. You never see him standing up at awards ceremonies, telling blonde country stars that Beyoncé was the best female artist that year. Maybe the problem is that his head isn’t inside his rectum. While we’re aware Alex Turner may self-apotheosise at any given moment, we still think he’s effortlessly cool. Does Chris Martin lose out because he’s too busy doing charity work or (allegedly) going out with Jennifer Lawrence? JENNIFER LAWRENCE? I mean, seriously. Jennifer Lawrence.
Let’s look beyond the reasons for hating them though. This is a case for Coldplay, not an attack on everyone else, so why don’t we take a long, hard look at the Coldplay-shaped chip on our collective shoulder and perhaps think about removing it.
Of course, I’m biased. This is a band with whom I have a personal history, releasing their first record when I was five years old and continuing to produce music throughout most of my childhood. The first album I truly loved (and that I’m not embarrassed about in hindsight) was Parachutes. Fix You was the first song I ever sang in front of people, as a loner of a 9 year old, and Yellow was the first song I ever performed live with a guitar. My secondary school music teacher coerced us all into learning Clocks on piano. The first time I entirely financed my going to a gig, it was to see them play at the Emirates Stadium in London.
So obviously the release of their seventh studio album in December signalled their welcome return into my headphones and (consequentially) my headspace.
And I was underwhelmed.
The difficulty with Coldplay is that they’re just not as good as they used to be. I would challenge you to find a better, more complete debut album than Parachutes, and yet I couldn’t make an impassioned defence of ‘A Head Full Of Dreams’ or ‘Ghost Stories’, their last two releases.
But they still provide moments. There are split seconds in each record which precede a grudging grin or leave a lump in the throat. It’s like stepping into your childhood home and seeing it redecorated. You know it’s irreversibly different, and yet there are still little mementos of the years you spent there. The same alcove in the living room, the same kitchen unit you used to sit on while your mum made dinner. It’s bittersweet, and it’s a little bit wonderful.
Think about the soundtracks to your lives, to everyone’s lives over the past 15 years. How many of you have wailed Viva La Vida or Paradise at the top of your lungs in the clutches of inebriation? How many have sobbed into the comfort blanket of The Scientist or Fix You after a break up? How many have heard a busker murdering Yellow and gone home and listened to the original?
The answer is most of you. And that’s the thing about Coldplay. They might not be the coolest band or your favourite band, and they’re definitely not the best-loved band. But sometimes you don’t want a caramel cappuccino; sometimes, what comes out of your mum’s slightly rubbish cafetiere produces tastes so much better.