February 16, 2001

No Need For a Parachute

Print More

The word “pop” floats from American mouths like the flu, and apparently this year the Grammy Board hasn’t even been wearing its wool hat. No, to us Americans, pop smacks of acts like Christina Aguilera and the Backstreet Boys, who look to the New Kids on the Block with reverence for having founded their genre. But in Britain, the word “pop” is less candy coated and less likely to be easily interchanged with the word “crap.”

Across the Atlantic, respected acts like The Verve and Radiohead look to the Beatles for inspiration, and seem to purport a much more musical flavor than their American counterparts; besides, Paul McCartney could take Jordan Knight in a fight any day. In the aforementioned vein of British pop comes Coldplay’s debut full length album, Parachutes.

Just six years after its inception at London University College, Coldplay seems like anything other than a group of recent college grads. They have moved quickly up through the ranks of the music industry and have been snatched up by Britain’s prestigious Parlophone label after only two EP releases. Their mature, textured brand of pop fluidly meshes frontman Chris Martin’s Thom Yorke-esque voice with the ambient music of his bandmates, who are capable of creating landscapes similar to Pink Floyd’s and Deep Purple’s. The layered sound of the guitars often places acoustics under several leads and cleverly manipulates the instruments to sound as smoothly mixed as if they all came out of one instrument.

But the lead instrument in Coldplay’s mix is almost always Martin’s voice. On “Shiver” he repeats the one word chorus and stretches the syllables of “Shi-Ver” for all they’re worth. He toys with octaves as if they are notes themselves and in “Sparks” hits notes that probably make his dog curl up under the table. Martin’s vocal acrobatics never fail to redeem the album’s duller moments and even manage to salvage such superfluous songs as “Sparks” and “We Never Change,” which do eventually break under the weight of their own intended emotion.

Parachutes soars highest when it tests the boundaries of its genre. “Yellow,” the album’s most chart-worthy cut, will confuse American pop fans as something other than a sappy love ballad (which it certainly is) by constantly playing against expected lyrical clich