In the summer of 2001, I started hearing this song on the radio called “Yellow”. I remember finding it very ear-catching because of its brit-pop feel, falsetto vocals and almost out of tune guitar sound. I liked it more the more times I heard it (this was before the song was overplayed to death). I decided that I’d go purchase the actual album by this band and see what I thought. This is the first time I can remember buying an album based on liking a radio single.
In 2001, Coldplay was a baby band. Chris Martin had not yet met Gwyneth Paltrow and the band wasn’t a stadium act just yet. They were actually more of a small club kind of band and Parachutes depicts that feel very well (which is why this might be my favorite album of theirs). As is often the case, the lead single feels three feet taller than the rest of the songs. The bulk of the set is dominated by subtle, softer songs. The drums swish in the background as Martin carefully croons and the guitar slides around lazily.
These are also some of the best written songs we’ve ever gotten from the band. The opening track, “Don’t Panic”, relies on a prototypical Martin-style lyric of “We live in a beautiful world”, but it doesn’t seem contrived – perhaps because it’s our first encounter with his “eternally hopeful” vibe. The closer goes there too, proclaiming “everything’s not lost”. In between, however, we’ve got melancholy songs like “Spies” which starts with the lyric “I awake to find no peace of mind”. Then there’s “Trouble” and “Sparks”, both of which lament a lost love and offer no clear resolution.
As if often the case when one buys an album based on a radio single, I initially just listened to “Yellow” over and over again. Soon, however, I grew to really appreciate the rest of the album. I love the chill vibe that resonates from this disc. From here, the band soared to incredibly high heights of popularity based on epic arrangements and stadium concerts. They became one of the biggest bands on the world, which is why hearing them in this setting seems so quaint now; yet this may be my favorite album of theirs. I like the fact that they aren’t relying on bombastic, soaring choruses to encompass the listeners. They were playing their songs shyly. Attention had yet to be earned and that made the album more earnest and genuine.
I still like Coldplay quite a bit. I almost lost confidence in them when their X&Y album came out and was extremely boring. Viva la Vida boasted Brian Eno as producer and was as solid album throughout, but I fear that the days of the band playing small, soft songs is gone and may never return. And that’s a shame because they did it so well.