Monthly Archives: September 2011

Inevitable rant about Coldplay

Amid a barrage of things we don’t need (a third Bridget Jones film, a Sex and the City prequel), Coldplay’s fifth album Mylo Xyloto is hurtling towards us at great speed.

It’s easy to have a go at Coldplay. They’re a bit smug. More than a bit bland. Chris Martin is highly irritating, particularly when it comes to pretending he isn’t married to Gwyneth Paltrow (not talking about your marriage to the press is fair enough, but pretending it doesn’t exist is just a little bit mental). Clocks has been played so often over the last nine years that it resembles a car alarm far more than a musical composition. But their most heinous offence, far worse than all of these things, is Fix You.

Fix You is, oddly, one of their most celebrated songs, but listen to it – really listen to it. It. Is. Horrendous. It has become a torch song, but what the hell is it about? Initially, comfort: I will try to fix you, lights will guide you home. But, and here’s the main grievance: said lights will indeed guide you home, but they will also ignite your bones. Follow the nice safe path home, dear, and you will burst into flame. And I will, you know, try to fix you. Seems unlikely, though, given that even your bones are on fire. There are also the smaller matters of the epic guitars which kick in about halfway through, simultaneously prompting a thousand bands with no ideas of their own to follow suit and ensuring a generation uses the word ‘epic’ incorrectly, the fact that the verse’s hook  is kind of the Pixies’ Where Is My Mind, and the narcoleptic delivery of the last word of every line makes it sound like even Chris can’t be bothered. But thousands – probably even millions of people holler along to it at festivals as if experiencing the rapture.

The thing is, though, that they’re not totally awful. Parachutes is still pretty lovely, for the most part; Viva La Vida’s strings made for one of the year’s best hooks, and The Scientist remains a perfect pop song with a genuine emotional punch. And they may very well surprise us this time round, rob us of our easy target, but tasters like Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall suggest they probably won’t. We’ve got a few months before it’s on every advert and montage though: enjoy it while you can.

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The Mercury isn’t Everything (Everything)

Everything Everything

Tonight we find out who has won the Mercury out of Adele, Elbow, Katy B, the jazz man and a few others. The odds are on for one of the more left-field albums to scoop it this time, but chances are it may well go to Adele. Who can say? As long as it doesn’t go to Elbow (sorry, but Build A Rocket, Boys is just not good enough) or Tinie Tempah who, as part of 6Music’s excellent Complete Mercury’s season, revealed that he had been inspired to make music by So Solid Crew’s 21 Seconds.

On this year’s list, Everything Everything’s Man Alive outshines everything. The Mercury Music Prize is meant to represent an album of unparalleled craft, and that can be said of few other contenders this year, perhaps with the exception of PJ Harvey (who has already won). Man Alive, however, is a study in invention, an exploration in sound, particularly rhythm. At no point on that album does any one member of the band do what you expect, and if that’s not worthy of a prize…

Take, for example, Schoolin and its baffling final minutes. Around 2 mins 50, everything drops out, and a frantic, rippling, impossibly intricate guitar riff starts (not a sample, incidentally – guitarist Alex Robertshaw plays it live). Jonathan Higgs howls something. Then the drums kick in, battered, off-beat, almost Caribbean in feel, and on top of this, a syncopated bassline. All going on at the same time, all fitting around each other like this makes perfect sense. The months of practice that must have gone in to managing to play it live, and this is two minutes’ worth of music. This is before mentioning the glorious Qwerty Finger (the breathless, towering chorus collapsing into the half-speed breakdown is one of the finest musical moments of the past year, and it’s a satisfying title to type too), Nasa Is On Your Side’s ping-ponging melody or the beautifully deployed trumpets on Come Alive Diana. This is a genuinely outstanding band who have created a surpassing album. Is it better than Metronomy, than Elbow, than  James Blake? Infinitely. It’s so good, in fact, that you almost don’t want it to win. It doesn’t need the accolade: it’s already far more than any of the other shortlisted albums could ever hope to be.

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