The Telegraph NOVEMBER 27, 2008 - by Paul Morley


I am not a Coldplay fan, never have been, never will be, yet whenever I read a list of their influences, and indeed hear these influences deftly and lucidly processed in their songs, it's usually my favourite music - the stern and sensual 'Berlin' era Bowie, the techno-tender New Order, the ethereally epic Echo and the Bunnymen, the mystically aching Kate Bush, the lonely longing pulse of Kraftwerk, the pulsating, crusading drama of U2. And, of course, there is studio genius Brian Eno, an influence on the group as experimental song writer, as sonic explorer, as a collaborator with the 'Berlin'-era Bowie and producer-mentor of U2, and the producer of Coldplay's latest album, Viva La Vida. They should sound like my favourite group, but instead sound like a literate, slightly darker Take That.

Admittedly, Coldplay can sound like they're distilling the boiling essence of the universe into grave, graceful pop music, until you pay attention to what vocalist Chris Martin is singing, and note that he is perpetually a thin-skinned, self-obsessed student in his bedroom struggling to sound profound and imposing, whilst simultaneously rhyming like a young Neil Sedaka. Coldplay-lovers hear majestic, romantic yearning and resounding, utopian hope. Non-lovers hear a kind of sonorous begging, a nagging, underlying hum of nervy self-pity.

I suppose it all depends under what circumstances you first hear a group, and how that experience fixes in place whatever prejudice or bias, for or against, that you have. I first heard Coldplay in 2000 sounding like a bombastic tribute to the kind of music that intense, sensitive and scruffy young students would have been drawn to if they had an ear for the loftier and more introverted rock music of the time - Radiohead, Jeff Buckley and Travis. And whatever has happened since has not convinced me that they are anything other than a band with solid, quite serious, very boyish musical taste, who are experts at representing and refining this taste in their own music. At this stage in rock history, such a prudent transformation of alternative rock influences into ecstatic, middle-of-the-road music is a winning formula. They are not 'originals' but they are second to none at impersonating high-minded originality and presenting it with flamboyant, frowning sincerity.

On their UK tour, Coldplay will mix tracks from Viva La Vida with choice material from their three previous albums X&Y, A Rush Of Blood To The Head and their debut, Parachutes. To besotted fans they will sound like the best, most elevating rock band on the planet. To some extent this means that they are.