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Monday, June 6, 2005

Coldplay Smackdown

Posted by on June 6 at 11:24 AM

So, the Jon Pareles piece about Coldplay in the Sunday New York Times basically sums up one of the big contradictions of rock crit. The article was a classic gob of spit aimed at a band that the world lines up to adore. Though it contains a pretty strong slam (“Most Insufferable Band of the Century”), “The Case Against Coldplay” wasn’t nearly as mean as it might have been. Still, it had no other purpose than to stand up and call bullshit on a thing that lots of music fans, and presumably Times readers enjoy. I think that’s a totally fair thing for a writer to do, since there are few things more frustrating than watching as some band you can’t stand gets a free ride from critics and listeners alike based onwhat, looks? Sales? Corporate backing?

I can't fucking stand Coldplay. Their progression from fake-Radiohead to fake-U2 grates on me in a very specific way. I reject the band's entire approach to everything (even moreso when I find myself humming that "Clocks" song). I totally understand Pareles's impulse. Still, reading the piece, I couldn't shake the sense that he was just a small-hearted and bitter man who resented the fact that his opinion didn't control the tides. A couple of swipes at the musical simplicity, the singer's cloying tone of voice, the cryptometaphysical self-help lyrics--he doesn't really make a case against the band, because there is no case to make. He just hates them, all the more because so many people like them. Coldplay isn't/aren't dangerous. They're just bullshit, slightly worse or better than all the other bullshit that people who don't really care that much about music like to buy when they're in line at Starbucks or whatever. They've fooled a few music fans, but there's no harm in that. Who knows why people respond to music? And anyway, when a band gets as internationally big as Coldplay, criticismespecially criticism that boils down to "if you like this, you are dumb"is basically irrelevant, and Pareles knows it. I'm not saying he should just shut up and get on board the train that would convert the band into the new U2 (the original Too-Big-To-Be-Affected-By-Criticism band); I'm just saying. I'm torn between appreciating the gesture of someone finally saying Coldplay is bullshit (which they obviously are), and deploring the writer's need to piss in everyone's cocktail. Only a fool feels diminished by the tastes of others.

Also: If you're trying to text someone about cole slaw, predictive text will lead you first to "cold play." I wonder if that's how they got their (stupid fucking) name.