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.