Music critics often compare new groups to groups that have come before. When Radiohead burst onto the U.S. scene with its pseudo-grunge single Creep, comparisons were made to Nirvana. When Travis came out with its album, The Man Who, the anthemic power-rock sound and falsetto vocals were compared to Radiohead.
Now, Travis is the new standard, and the first band critics have compared to them is the new British band Coldplay. With its debut album Parachutes (Nettwerk) finally released in America after taking England by storm for the last year, some of the comparisons are apt. However, Coldplay shows on this album that it has the talent and skill to set its own standards in the industry.
On the first listen to Parachutes, the comparison to Travis seems appropriate. Both bands are British. Both make rock songs with a sense of romanticism that are filled with emotion.
But the songs on Parachutes more than stand on their own. Coldplay has a more jagged, angular sound than the pristine Britpop of Travis. Coldplay forgoes the easy hook and catch of a pop song to create a sound that is more the feeling of skin tingling. The rhythms and pitches are slightly off. All this makes the listener focus more on the music.
Lead singer Chris Martin has a more ragged, husky voice than the pure falsetto of Travis’ Fran Healy. If Healy is the bright-eyed romantic always looking for love, Martin sounds like a man who has stayed up all night drinking cold coffee and chain smoking one too many times.
Every song on Parachutes is a perfect slice that shows off the catchiness, pop shine and prettiness of Britpop that started with Oasis and Blur. The opener Don’t Panic has a hypnotic feel. The echoing guitar swirl in the chorus may not be an obvious hook, but it will stick in your head long after you turn it off. Spies is a pretty acoustic lament that blossoms with an epic guitar riff in the middle. The first single Yellow is a rousing anthem along the lines of Travis’s Turn and Oasis’s Wonderwall.
It is easy to see why Parachutes was nominated for the Mercury Music Award, England’s honor for the best album of the year. With bombastic rap-metal, schlocky metal and dumbed-down pop in control in the United States, Coldplay has a hard sell. Still, one hopes there are enough fans of music that is both pretty to the ears and stirring to the heart who will snatch up Coldplay and Parachutes . or rock is in a lot of trouble.