Wednesday 1 June 2005

but my heart is open, my heart is open to you

You may be aware that the new Coldplay album - X&Y - is being released on Monday. This is a pretty big deal. This is going to be one of the biggest releases of the year. Their last album, 'A Rush of Blood to the Head', has sold something in excess of 10m copies and won the band a whole heap of critical praise and awards (including a Grammy). Their record company are depending on them: the new album was originally scheduled for an earlier release date, and its delay was cited as one of the reasons why EMI announced a profit warning to the Stock Exchange back in February.

No pressure then.

Like many people, I first really became aware of Coldplay when 'Yellow' began to take off. Their debut album, 'Parachutes', came out in July 2000, although I didn't buy it until 2nd October 2000. I can pinpoint the date exactly because I popped into a Virgin Megastore as I walked into work to pick up a copy of 'Kid A' by Radiohead on its day of release, and picked up the Coldplay album at the same time, mainly because 'Yellow' had been earworming me for weeks and weeks.

Do I need to tell you which of those two albums I have listened to the most?

When Coldplay were named as the headliners for the Friday night of Glastonbury in June 2002, many people were sceptical: their new album was still a couple of months away from release, and many people thought that they simply weren't big enough. I was lucky enough to be there, and from the moment they came onto the Pyramid stage in total darkness and launched into 'Politik', I was completely captivated. As is often the case with these moments, it wasn't until I heard it replayed on the radio when I got home that I fully appreciated quite how magical the whole show had been. The crowd singalong to 'Yellow' raised the hairs on the back of my neck (and I'm sure it will when they play the festival this year as well)

That was it - I was hooked. I counted down the days until the release of the album in August, eagerly logging onto the Coldplay website as they previewed a new track every day. I saw them play live again at the Nottingham Arena in October 2002, and they were magnificent all over again. The CD hasn't left my car since, and it's a fixture on my 'most played tracks' listing on iTunes.

Apart from the single, 'Speed of Sound', I haven't heard much of the new album at all, and I can't wait until I get my hands on it on Monday morning. I'll probably stop somewhere on the way to work to pick it up, and then I'll try to plug myself into a pair of headphones and shut out the office for a while to give it a good listen.

I want to say this before I hear the new album, and before I get excited all over again. Without a shadow of a doubt, Coldplay are my favourite band in the whole world; I have connected with them in a way that I haven't connected with any artist since Morrissey.

I'm not sure what it is about them that strikes such a chord with me. Maybe part of it is because I share a similar background to Chris Martin - public school education, bit shy, losing my hair, late-starter with girls, prone to a bit of insecurity....that kind of thing. He's proper famous now, of course, has pots of money, an Oscar winning wife and a little baby girl with a mildly silly name, but he still doesn't seem entirely comfortable in his own skin, and I can relate to that.

Alan McGhee, the founder of Creation Records and the man who signed Oasis, famously described Coldplay as producing "music for bedwetters", and the funny thing is that I can see what he means. It is a bit sappy, isn't it? Lots of piano, lots of questioning lyrics about the meaning of life and unrequited loves. Still, if the alternative is overly long, derivative dirges and ape-like posturing, then I'll take the bedwetters every time. Coldplay say so much more to me about my life than Oasis ever have.

Even when I'm not sure what Chris Martin is singing about, it touches me. So much yearning. So much wondering.... and amidst the wreckage of our lives, and the mess we've made of the world we live in - so much hope:

And we live in a beautiful world,
Yeah we do, yeah we do,
We live in a beautiful world.

Oh, all that I know,
There's nothing here to run from,
Cos yeah, everybody here's got somebody to lean on.


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