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Albums

Best albums of 2000: #4 Coldplay “Parachutes”

Back when I wrote about the song “Yellow” to finish off my Best tunes of 2000 list, I wrote how I still remembered first hearing the track on the radio and the excitement I felt in experiencing it. I also briefly played the game of trying to get us all to remember this same feeling, “Yellow”, before everything that came after with Coldplay. A tough task to be sure, given that Will Champion, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, and Chris Martin make up what is still surely one of the world’s biggest bands and one of the more commercially successful rock acts of the 21st century.

To be honest, I don’t listen to Coldplay all that often any more and don’t think I’ve heard even a note of their last two records. However, I really liked their first three records and perhaps to a lesser extent, their fourth. Indeed, “Parachutes” is still, for me, a classic, the measuring stick by which I’ve always judged their latter work. It is the sound of a young band finding their feet after a few years of slogging it out on the live circuit and striking gold.

The album went to number one on the UK album charts and though it took a bit longer, went platinum many times over in the states. It was long listed for the Mercury prize and has been cited as influential by more than a few newer bands, which is more than we can say for anything by them that came later. Interesting, then, that the boys in Coldplay don’t really like the album all that much.

“Parachutes” nicely filled the British guitar rock void, just recently vacated by Radiohead, when that latter band decided to go experimental and electronic, a fact to which many critics attributed Coldplay’s early success. But for me, the album wasn’t just a rehash or throwaway. It was beautiful stuff. It was long-faced and grieving and claustrophobic production. It was the unexpected discovery of a new voice in Chris Martin, a breath of fresh air before all the pretence set in. It was Coldplay’s most passionate work because it wasn’t planned or expected or foreshadowed. And unfortunately, this kind of perfection can never be replicated.

It’s more than likely that most of you know the ten tracks on this release but I welcome you all to revisit them without delay, starting now with my three picks for you.


“Shiver”: The first single to be released off the album in the band’s native country was the second to come out on this side of the Atlantic. Chris Martin has admitted that he wrote the song with a particular woman in mind but has never given up her identity. “From the moment I wake to the moment I sleep, I’ll be there by your side – just you try and stop me.” Martin has also said that in an attempt to channel Jeff Buckley, the band created their “most blatant ripoff”, and a poor one at that. I’ll have to take his word for it because I’m not all that familiar with Buckley’s work but this track a heartbreaker. A jangling mesh of guitars that starts off in the distance but moves ever closer until it bursts into flames. And then, quiet – an easing, a stepping aside for Martin to shuffle into the light. Finally, it’s all him, pouring it all on, aching with his soul, and he leans on those driving guitars to hold him upright. Else, he might melt into a puddle of yearning.

“Don’t panic”: The opening number on the album was released as a single almost a year after the album’s release. And yet it is one of the band’s earliest known songs, first seeing the light of day as early as 1998. This version, the one I know and love, is perhaps much different than how it originated. And to be honest, I’ve never bothered to try to find out. I love this two minute wonder. It starts with a gentle strum and an even gentler touch on drums, Chris Martin is almost whispering, intimate, an aside to himself and millions of others. “And we live in a beautiful world. Yeah we do, yeah we do, we live in a beautiful world.” The guitars jangle and chime and sing and echo in, shattering a mirror into a million sparkling pieces. The world as microcosm, beauty in infinity, quiet in expansiveness. A young Chris Martin is reassuring himself and us at the same time.

“Yellow”: As I inferred above, this song was and still is my favourite song from the year 2000. It is iconic. It was the beginning of something and the end of something else. It was released as the second song off the album in the UK but first in the US. It was my introduction to the band, as it was to many others. It was in heavy rotation everywhere, ubiquitous for a time, but for me, it never became old, despite the oversaturation. I got sick of the band before I got sick of the song. This is pop perfection. A hammering on the guitars, all violence and passion, a threat to fall apart but yet somehow holding it all together. Chris Martin is right on this same page, singing softly but in a quiet rage, falsettos floating on a cloud of reverb. “I came along, I wrote a song for you, and all the things you do, and it was called Yellow.” It is romance. It is love. And a hopeless romantic like me could never resist it.


To be honest, this particular post is late by a few weeks and now, with my new philosophy for the site, I’m definitely not going to promise when we’ll get to album #3. So in the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Richard Ashcroft “Alone with everybody”
9. The New Pornographers “Mass romantic”
8. The Cure  “Bloodflowers”
7. The Weakerthans “Left and leaving”
6. The Clientele “Suburban light”
5. Belle and Sebastian “Fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Categories
Tunes

100 best covers: #56 Oasis “Cum on feel the noize”

<< #57    |    #55 >>

So here’s a great Friday tune. A rip-roaring number that, if you aren’t already, will get you all revved up to go out on the town, now that we can somewhat go out on the town again. A tune to blast out at eleven and… well… before I get too ahead of myself, let’s get back to some context.

During the mid-1990s, the Manchester quintet known as Oasis had a pretty terrific run of new music, one that I would have to say could rival any band in history, in terms of being prolific and the quality of their rock and roll. And I’m not just talking those brilliant first two albums. They also released a string of hit-making singles in this same period that showcased some pretty amazing b-sides*.

The fourth such single to be released from their sophomore record, “(What’s the story) morning glory?”, was the Noel-sung ballad, “Don’t look back in anger”. And of the three additional b-sides included on the CD single I managed to find as an import, each were great, but I actually recognized the fourth track as a song from my youth. Little did I know that even the commercially successful version from 1983, the one I remember singing to myself while walking to school in grade five, recklessly done by LA metal group, Quiet Riot, was also a cover.

Indeed, I was amused to learn that the original was actually done way back in 1973** by glam hard rockers, Slade. I, of course, knew of this group only by their 1983 hit, “Run runaway”, and though I liked that one well enough during my music video youth, I never felt the urge to check out their version of “Cum on feel the noize” until I sat down to write this post.

I always really liked this Oasis cover for the way it was just fun and raw, rock and roll, and captured that lightning-in-a-bottle live energy of theirs. But really, all of these versions of “Cum on feel the noize”, by such very different musical groups, were all approached from the same direction. All of these are loud and brash and a hell of a good time.

Personally, I’m still going with the Oasis one here over the others: I just don’t see myself cranking up the other two all that often. But… it’s Friday. Crank whichever one floats your boat and just giv’er!

Cover:

The original:

*Some of these were later collected on the group’s 1998 compilation, “The masterplan”.

**I would’ve been way too young to possibly know this one at the time, having been born a few months after its release.

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

Categories
Tunes

100 best covers: #62 Kula Shaker “Hush”

<< #63    |    #61 >>

When I sat down to write this post, I was framing it as cover of a song by Deep Purple but then, I quickly learned that theirs was a cover as well. Indeed, the song was originally written by Joe South and was performed by his friend Billy Joe Royal in 1967, though Joe South himself recorded and released a version of it the following year. It is obviously a great tune. Royal’s original, as well as a cover the same year by Australian band, Somebody’s Image, the famed Deep Purple cover in 1968, and our feature today, the one by Kula Shaker in 1996, were all hits for their respective artists. You can’t argue with that.

You also can’t argue with that ear worm hook. The nonsensical lyrical line would be instantly recognizable to anyone: “Na na-na nah, na-na nah, na-na naaaah!” (If that doesn’t ring any bells, just press play on either of the embedded YouTube videos below.)

Billy Joe Royal’s original (as I just recently discovered) is a classic, soulful, rock tune, indicative of its time. It’s got plenty of layers – rumbling bass, horns, tambourines, dancing guitars, backing vocals – and yet, it feels quite insular due to its production. In fact, if you listen to the stereo version available on Spotify, the weird mix puts the tambourine at a higher level than the guitar at times. And at just under two and a half minutes in length, it pales in all ways to the heavy psychedelics in the four plus minute cover by Deep Purple, all whirling hammond organs and bongo drums and fun.

Even though theirs is shorter, you kind of feel that Kula Shaker was aiming for more of the same feel of the Deep Purple cover than that of the Billy Joe Royal original. Recorded as a stop gap single between their wildly successful debut album “K” at the end of the Britpop blaze of glory and their sophomore album that unfortunately came too late, Kula Shaker’s “Hush” was a rage of 60s psych rock that incorporated within it, a decidedly 90s alternative guitar rock sound. It didn’t mine the Indian spirituality and traditional eastern folk that was the band’s hallmark in the late 1990s, instead going for the jugular with straight ahead rock. It’s a driving drum beat, screaming organs, raging guitars, and Crispian Mills letting his voice breathe right out there with the best of them that have covered this song.

This may be an unpopular take but given how taken I was with Kula Shaker at the time, how could I not love this cover better than all the other versions I have heard? (The Deep Purple cover is a close second though…)

Cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.