Review Summary: Just 'cause it's cliche to listen to it in Starbucks doesn't mean I don't.
Coldplay have aged fantastically.
Their first two albums had the misfortune of being released in a sea of imitators riding the Thom Yorke-mellowing-out-in-a-coffee-shop wave. Issue being, Coldplay were almost immediately more popular than their brethren and as such, became targets for critics sick to death of willowy British rock bands trying to bring the rain to America.
Now that Athlete-Starsailor-Travis have melted into slush and evaporated Parachutes can be fairly judged on its own merits. Slowly unfolding its pleasantries, it doesn’t immediately strike one as a great record but ends up pressing into you like a bear hug. It’s a compulsively listenable record, the kind of album you don’t think much of until the realization hits that you’ve listened to the whole thing straight through everyday for a week solid.
I don’t know who culled the singles from this album but they nailed it. The four singles are melodic genius, each sound like watching a warm sunset defy time and hang in the sky at just the right point, bathing the earth in sepia tone. The beguiling opener, “Don’t Panic”, sails around the globe in wide-eyed fascination with the people and places below. The guitar figure traces comets across the inky darkness of deep space. A piano figure twists out of the depth; an incredible guitar solo kicks up solar flares. “Oh/All that I know/There’s nothing here to run from” Chris Martin observes, “Cause yeah/Everybody here’s/Got somebody to lean on”. Just like that, it’s gone. In barely two minutes it’s one of the greatest things Coldplay have done and a hell of an album opener. “Shiver” resurrects Jeff Buckley to take the mic on a sweeping (and totally creepy) rouser. “Yellow” survives its endless use in TV Shows, commercials, poorly sequenced mixtapes, and radio repeats to remain a wonderful hand in the air anthem. “Trouble” might be the best of all; Chris Martin works that wonderfully warm falsetto into a strikingly catchy melody while Johnny Buckland’s thick chords are dragged beneath the sea.
With all the best songs being sent to radio, its easy to miss that the rest of the album isn’t drifty filler. “Spies” pulls a remarkable amount of urgency out of a band once voted most likely to put you to sleep (Travelodge poll, look it up) while retaining an overall cool vibe. The gorgeous “Sparks” slowly spins and unfolds like a music box while Crhis Martin sails to the moon and “High Speed” would make a good soundtrack to the most pleasent car chase your mind can construct.
Unfortunately, the album whimpers to a close. “We Never Change” suffers from some wheel spinning wandering while “Everything’s Not Lost” tips into full on corny with its gather- round-the-campfire singalong coda. It’s the only song on the album I would consider bad and pulls this album down a few notches from greatness.
When a parachute bursts open it’s a fairly violent affair, bones can be broken in the process if not done correctly. I’ve never had the experience of slowing terminal velocity with a bit of fabric but I imagine Coldplay’s Parachutes sounds like the period following the chaos. Once you’ve gathered your bearings you realize that you’re safe and everything is going to be okay. As the feeling of relief washes over you, you’re free to survey the horizon stretching out in front of you. If I ever find myself in this position, I’d be sure to cue up something off of Coldplay’s marvelous Parachutes before I take flight. Just need to remember to brace for landing, that can mess you up too.