Coldplay is the most middlebrow band in rock history.
The smarter or dumber you are, the further they seem from your wavelength. They’re forever the house band of the non-revolution, the soundtrack to a Centrist Project summit. Yet even some Goop loyalists may turn out for the band's U.S. Bank Stadium show this Saturday. Just like we needed Hillary Clinton because she was all we had, sometimes a little white rice is good for you. So here’s ten binding foods ... er, pretty good songs from this Western dietary staple that you may not have caught over the Walgreens’ radio system.
“Spies” (Parachutes, 2000)
Coldplay don’t really get tagged as “folk-rock” even when they keep things quiet and acoustic, but here’s a hushed, whispered Pentangle tribute from their debut that hooks you in by tumbling evocatively over a glassy-eyed beat that's reminiscent of “Walking on the Moon.”
“Amsterdam” (A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002)
The closing number from the first post-U2 album to challenge Bono’s stronghold on neoliberal AOR in America is a hushed, soulful monster of a power ballad, threatening constant release with every piano-chord pound like a wave pool to the gut, leading to a climactic crash of – well, hardly a tsunami but a slightly bigger wave, at least.
“Green Eyes” (A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002)
Possibly Chris Martin’s finest song, this threadbare strummer is what made him an A-list moony-crooning Looney Tune. The key to Gwyneth Paltrow’s heart lies within these three and a half minutes.
“Square One” (X&Y, 2005)
Coldplay's third album disappointed virtually everyone, but no album that scores a chart hit plagiarizing Kraftwerk (“Talk”) could be all bad. Its opener is where they began to sleepwalk towards dancefloor grandeur, with lightly desperate descending chords and whoa-oh response vocals on the second verse that are wholly unconvincing – which almost makes them more charming.
“42” (Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, 2008)
Ambition’s been good for these guys; their biggest hit, “Viva la Vida,” is all pulsing orchestral victory, and its Eno-helmed parent album was most rewarding at its most prog; the three-part suite “42” swells nervously, first with regular strings, then with shaky and dissonant ones more jolting than (let’s be honest) anything on Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool.
“Yes” (Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, 2008)
If “42” was Coldplay’s nod to In the Court of the Crimson King, the stomping, Eastern-damaged “Yes” is their Zeppelin tribute: seven minutes accented by strings that slowly morph from rubbery blues to Arabic swoon to John Cale’s rickety “Venus in Furs” violin. Then four minutes in, it becomes a jangly Paramore epic. Sometimes rich white guys do know how to have fun.
“Death and All His Friends” (Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, 2008)
Maybe because that other title track got so much attention, its subheader is one of Coldplay’s most underrated epics, ascending to all-timer status when it hits on that indelible piano riff and 4/4 pound between the 1:30 and 1:50 mark, only to de-groove itself around 2:20 with a whole other falling-angels bridge. When these professionals trip over themselves it reminds you they’re alive, though, and this may be the most alive they’ve ever sounded on record.
“Hurts Like Heaven” (Mylo Xyloto, 2011)
Some of Coldplay’s best songs – “Shiver,” “Charlie Brown” – were singles but not chart successes, which leaves them in purgatory between the hit singles and the true deep cuts, and makes them ineligible for this list. The fastest song on 2011’s intentionally wacky Mylo Xyloto is a good representation of this low-charting fun that Top 40 heads are missing: spindly new wave raving with a title worthy of the era it’s exhuming.
“Midnight” (Ghost Stories, 2014)
Coldplay’s Vespertine had exactly one stunner, which is one more that you might’ve bet a Chris Martin divorce album would. It’s saying something that the staticky “Midnight” is the most fragile thing the band’s ever done, a (broken) marriage of layered Bon Iver falsettos and pittering, wombcore minimalism.
“Army of One” (A Head Full of Dreams, 2015)
It didn’t take long for that Purity Ring scrambled-voice synth-pop thing to become the mainstream standard did it? Chris Martin’s take on it is quite pretty though, and that hypnotic electronic bassline fits the slo-mo upbeat melody like a glove. A sterile, rubber glove maybe, but a snug fit nonetheless.
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