An Ode To Coldplay
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment that I fell in love with Coldplay; the sun was disappearing on Old Street, I was looking at Banksy’s Pulp Fiction mural then rain began to fall as it often does in London and I heard a song that I must’ve listened to a dozen times: “We Never Change.” This time I heard the lyrics; “So I want to live in a wooden house/ Making more friends would be easy/ I want to live where the sun comes out.” For the first time I could hear Chris Martin’s voice; those quiet and persistent qualities that were ethereal and beautiful. The inherent dichotomy within his voice mesmerised me. I haven’t been able to let go.
Coldplay came to define my twenties, those uneasy moments when university, difficult job searches and relationships left us incomplete and confused. Their albums expressed my obscure longing for more. We were searching and it felt as though the band was too; what were they looking for? I don’t know, but I imagined they understood us. I listened to them on my way to unpaid work experiences; all the while holding out a little hope that one of those companies would hire me, but when it did not happen, I had Coldplay’s “Everything’s Not Lost” to comfort me.
In the beginning there were comparisons to Radiohead and U2, but I was too young to see the similarities. At twenty I was self-aware and unsure; I was a contradiction of adjectives and adverbs. Radiohead had a clear place in pop culture when I was still in middle school. It was easier to understand a band that was still evolving. So I grew up with Coldplay and came to see the world through their eyes; who influenced them was never as important as the band itself.
While Coldplay has always been hard to place, critics continue to question whether they are alternative, rock or pop music, the band has never really changed. There is a song from each album that echoes back to the beginning. If we listen closely, the vulnerability is still there; we only have to listen for it. From “Proof” to “Us Against the World”, we can hear traces of their first album: “So I waited all day/ What wouldn’t I say?/ And all things in your way/ Things happen that way.” Their lyrics have always spoken to us about life, love, and longing. It is difficult to place alternative music, but isn’t that why the label alternative is so fitting.
When I listen to Coldplay, I still hear the band from my twenties. Martin’s voice lulls me into a past where life was less complicated and I’m home; back in my London flat, realising that my refrigerator is empty and I need to make a Sainsbury’s run. Those English memories are alive in every song.
Their song “Violet Hill” echoes of Dylan Thomas’s haunting war poem “A Winter’s Tale”; rich with allusions of snow and God, we are reminded of the injustices that continue. Sometimes it’s easier to forget, but I know life hasn’t changed since Thomas’s poem. Villages are still being burned, women and children are massacred; the causalities of war are not only the dead but the living. The snow is no longer pure, it’s part of war and death: “It was a long and dark December/ From the rooftops I remember/ There was snow, white snow.” Thomas weaves a connection between the dead in his poem with falling stars and snow: “And the stars falling cold/And the smell of hay in the snow, and the far owl/ Warning among the folds, and the frozen hold/ Flocked with the sheep white smoke of the farm house cowl/ In the river wended vales where the tale was told.”
I want to forget the face of war, but Pep Bonet’s images from the PositHIV+ exhibit are flooding my memory and I remember the ailing. Coldplay made me question our responsibility as a society to those suffering. Bob Dylan and other generations dealt with the complexities of social injustices by calling for change. Decades later Coldplay delivered an understated protest song with moving lyrics: “I don’t want to be a soldier/ Who the captain of some sinking ship/ Would stow, far below/ So if you love me, why’d you let me go?”
We’ve been flooded with so many voices that it often feels like “total noise” (a term coined by David Foster Wallace). Context and perspective has become muddled with social media and cable news; but there has always been one voice, steady and introspective: Coldplay. They are the voice of a generation, one that relentlessly questions and still searches for meaning in this world. It’s a generation that is a juxtaposition of the past and future. Chris Martin’s voice has been the one constant over the last decade.
Now we’re at the sixth album, Ghost Stories. It feels like our innocence is slipping away, but the idealism is still there. It’s in the music, maybe we can find it in ourselves again. Banksy’s Pulp Fiction mural is gone, it was vandalized some time ago, but listening to Martin strum his acoustic guitar while singing “Oceans” reminds me that there is something pure about Coldplay.