[6] Coldplay, ‘Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall’

Coldplay

I posted this in July (then cunningly hid it):

———-

As the planet’s leading Coldplay apologist, I feel compelled to defend ‘Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall’ against the harsh barbs hurled in its path. Yes, it’s ‘Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp’ by way of Big Country by way of – what? – Bizarre Inc? Yes, Chris Martin’s whipped his rhyming dictionary out again, now thumbed to a cinder. Yes, its rave riff is a now-allegedly-customary lift. But come on, it’s credited. Now. What matters, to me at least, is its life-affirming kinetic drive, its splurge of non-specific euphoria and determination to grasp that pop nettle again and finally consign the blubs of X&Y to history’s disgrace.

But even I don’t go as far as Junior, who insists it’s “brilliant”. It also “sounds like bagpipes”. When Stuart Adamson was wringing those kinds of sonics out of his guitar, we were pretty impressed. In an aghast sort of way.

———-

Back to December, I now believe it is brilliant and Junior says, “I’ve heard it too many times”.

Real talk.

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Lady Gaga, ‘Born This Way’

Born This Way

The litmus test of any new pop record is the opinion of a little girl who already loves the artist unreservedly and will brook no criticism.

So, into this treacherous arena went ‘Born This Way’, and first we gauged recognition: “Is it Lady Gaga?” One hurdle cleared. Further responses to Stefani’s hi-NRG dambuster included bouncing up and down from Junior (five-and-a-half), Junior 2 (two-and-eleven-twelfths) and Junior 3 (a week shy of one) – confirming Gaga’s all-ages appeal – and an unprompted round of applause at the finish.

Then the question we’ve all avoided. Yes, determined to mark ‘Born This Way’’s place in the Gaga pantheon, I asked which was better, this or ‘Bad Romance’.

“Both.”

All that without mentioning ‘Express Yourself’. Unjaded by the past, unworried that all the pop tunes might have been done and everything’s now just a swish rejig, Junior doesn’t hear Madonna in this. Nor does she catch a whisper of ‘Rio’, or Jesus Jones’s ‘International Bright Young Thing’ or even Maxine Nightingale’s ‘Right Back Where We Started From’.

Come to that, she didn’t spot a Joe Satriani noodle recast in ‘Viva La Vida’, nor a short refrain from an 18-minute Cat Stevens song in the same. Because no one really knew them and they weren’t really there.

And she doesn’t fret that Lady Gaga’s courting of the gay audience might be a hard-nosed ploy. Perhaps she knows Gaga’s got plenty of ground there anyway, or perhaps she knows Gaga’s still got some way to go and it’s all fair game. After all, my brother still belongs to Kylie.

Whatever could go through Junior’s head, she takes ‘Born This Way’ on its own immediate terms; a fiery, anthemic, infectious jolt. Let’s all do that.

[12] Coldplay, ‘Viva La Vida’

When the Pet Shop Boys covered this in their Pandemonium show – Neil Tennant in crown and gown, natch – it fostered the biggest singalong of the night. I’d swear, somewhat insultingly (for whoever), half the audience assumed the song was Tennant and Lowe’s – and wised up too late. Otherwise, I’m not sure there’s a natural overlap between the bands, but the point for me is ‘Viva La Vida’ has fast become an anthem and, I’ll wager, the Noughties hit that will last. At least in the sort of Absolute Radio pantheon that will forever rate Bohemian Rhapsody and Stairway To Heaven the standout peaks of our popular culture.

Obviously I think this is a great record, and while much of that is down to its immediacy and bursting pride, there’s also the question of its surprising birth. After all, X&Y had pretty much clawhammered the joy out of the soul of anyone who listened. It was a flatulent album, stretching its reserves of hot air over a dozen lifeless rhyming-dictionary clods of half-songs. They barely deserved their Brian Eno moment. However, he turned up anyway and has to take a hefty slice of credit for the alert Coldplay that emerged. But credit to Martin and co for actually bothering their arses this time.

Like Doctor Who, this is a family favourite. Actually, Doctor Who’s too scary for Junior. Let’s call this a mainstay of our automobile glee club.

Junior says: “WOAH-OH-OHH-OH-OHHH-OHHH. That’s the best bit.” And probably the only bit not pilfered from Joe Satriani, Cat Stevens, ‘Papa Don’t Preach’… – ah, we’re all the sum of our influences, aren’t we? Whatever cobbles this together, it gets Junior smiling every time. Maybe she’s got some publishing rights too.

Best bit: Well, what she said.

2009 Top 20 Singles?

We did this about this time last year, so why change a vaguely popular feature? These are the Top 20 Most Played 2009 Singles on the ever-honest iPod:

[1] Yeah Yeah Yeahs, ‘Zero’
[2] Dananananaykroyd, ‘Black Wax’
[3] The Horrors, ‘Sea Within A Sea’
[4] Passion Pit, ‘The Reeling’
[5] Animal Collective, ‘My Girls’
[6] James Yuill, ‘No Surprise’
[7] Sunny Day Sets Fire, ‘Adrenaline’
[8] TV On The Radio, ‘Dancing Choose’
[9] Frankmusik, ‘Better Off As Two’
[10] Röyksopp featuring Robyn, ‘Girl And The Robot’
[11] Jamie T, ‘Sticks ‘n’ Stones’
[12] Coldplay, ‘Life In Technicolor ii’
[13] U2, ‘Magnificent’
[14] The Phantom Band, ‘The Howling’
[15] Eg, ‘Broken’
[16] Junior Boys, ‘Hazel’
[17] Lily Allen, ‘The Fear’
[18] Fischerspooner, ‘Supply & Demand’
[19] Saint Etienne, ‘Method Of Modern Love’
[20] Red Light Company, ‘Arts & Crafts’

But will it bear any resemblance to the year-end chart? Be sure to check in 18 or 19 weeks.

Duffy, ‘Warwick Avenue’/‘Mercy’

Duffy

Any seemingly endless round-up of 2008 would be incomplete without mentioning the Dusty-voiced siren from Wales. Rockferry was the bestelling album of the year, chart fans – no mean feat in a climate where Coldplay were releasing their best record in years (ever?), Oasis were returning to form (hmmm – maybe Q asserted that) and Leona Lewis was still shifting units by the warehouse. But is Duffy up to much? On this day in history or near enough, I saw her play at the Pigalle when she was a mere twinkle in an industry tipster’s eye, and thought, “Yeah, ok, she does it well enough.” That “it” being “the voguish ‘60s thing”. The songs are pastiche with a bit of verve – Bernard Butler’s calling card from McAlmont And days – and she has some nice, witchy hand gestures.

That’s about the limit, though. Today’s tune was ‘Warwick Avenue’, all bereft and stirring, but we turned to ‘Mercy’ soon after because we hadn’t quite reached nursery. To the first, Junior asked, “Is that Duff?” which seems harsh – it’s a pleasant song, even if it sticks to its template like glue. I could see Junior mouthing along to ‘Mercy’ in the rear view, which is no surprise considering its grating ubiquity. “I heard this yesterday,” said Junior, and in her speak that means any point in the past. Sounds about right.

[1] MGMT, ‘Time To Pretend’

MGMT

Like LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’ last year, this is so far ahead of the pack it isn’t funny. Except it is. Andrew Van Wyngarden and Ben Goldwasser dream of their rock’n’roll future to come, and it’s all drugs and supermodels – are they as knee-deep in them now as they anticipated? Hell, probably.

‘Time To Pretend’ has an irresistible, kinetic energy. It’s a rolling stone, but it gathers moss, drums (the drums, the drums), synths, pure glee and giddy excitement. I suppose it has an ‘80s bent in its shiny, pumped-up production yet the excess is unfiltered ‘70s. They look like a pair of prog/hippie casualties to boot. The second half is one long spine-tingle and the hanging chords of the final bridge/chorus sound almost heroic – assuming there’s heroism in “The models will have children/We’ll get a divorce/Find some more models/Everything must run its course”. Naturally there is.

The album Oracular Spectacular is a bit Blue Oyster Cult for me; let’s just revel in a perfect single’s anticipation of living fast and dying young. The album prize can go to Vampire Weekend, with honours to TV On The Radio, Lykke Li and Coldplay (yes, Coldplay – I couldn’t believe it either).

As for Junior, she’s loved this from the moment she first heard the chirupping bleeps of the intro. Today she dances, rolls around the floor and bounds about in front of her sister – and her sister’s clapping. Bravo.

[6] Coldplay, ‘Viva La Vida’

Coldplay

As the opening strings stab, Junior vouches, “It’s my song,” which just about crowns a vexing couple of weeks for Chris Martin. That’s Junior and Joe Satriani on his tail. Joe’s beef is that the melody of the verse borrows a widdly guitar part of his, and while you can’t deny the similarities it’s tough to call it a steal. At any rate, ‘Viva La Vida’’s strength is a pulsating string sound and a chorus you can shine your shoes with.

After the complacent, sloppy muck of X&Y, I wasn’t expecting great things of Coldplay, and Viva La Vida’s lead single ‘Violet Hill’ wasn’t exactly a curveball – but, once you got past the throwback mis-step of ‘Cemeteries Of London’, the album turned out to be a real gem. There’s a switch halfway through fourth track ‘42’ where the band relaxes, tries on some new threads for size and bangs out beauties to the end. It’s tempting to call it the work of Brian Eno and, even if his hand was only a guiding one, he can take some credit that the album is succinct, moving, interesting and brave – in relative terms, at least. The title track is its beating heart (albeit a heartbeat after some mild exercise), a stirring tale of a great leader fallen and shamed. Neil reckons it’s about Tony Blair.

Junior is “woah-oh-OH-OH-oh”ing within a bar or two, pre-empting the chant before the final chorus. Perhaps it was at the start in her first draft.

2008 Top 20 Singles?

Halfway through the year, always looking for delaying tactics and ways to ramp up the tension for the year-end countdown, here’s a minor indicator – the Top 20 Most Played 2008 Singles on my iPod thingy.

[1] Martha Wainwright, ‘Bleeding All Over You’
[2] The Ting Tings, ‘Great DJ’
[3] Laura Marling, ‘Ghosts’
[4] Alphabeat, ‘Fascination’
[5] Fleet Foxes, ‘White Winter Hymnal’
[6] Coldplay, ‘Violet Hill’
[7] The Ting Tings, ‘That’s Not My Name’
[8] Death Cab For Cutie, ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’
[9] MGMT, ‘Time To Pretend’
[10] Lykke Li, ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’
[11] Coldplay, ‘Viva La Vida’
[12] Santogold, ‘L.E.S. Artistes’
[13] Portishead, ‘Machine Gun’
[14] Vampire Weekend, ‘Oxford Comma’
[15] Laura Marling, ‘Cross Your Fingers’/’Crawled Out Of The Sea’
[16] Hercules And Love Affair, ‘Blind’
[17] The Shortwave Set, ‘No Social’
[18] Goldfrapp, ‘A&E’
[19] H ‘two’ O featuring Platnum, ‘What’s It Gonna Be’
[20] Foals, ‘Red Socks Pugie’

Admit it. You’re astonished.

[19] Mika, ‘Grace Kelly’

Mika, ‘Grace Kelly’

Before being overtaken by Rihanna and the unstoppable Leona Lewis juggernaut in recent weeks, this was the biggest-selling single of the year. It’s a disturbing and divisive record, but – how shall we put it? – one of the more memorable No.1s of the year.
 
I had the misfortune to review its parent album Life In Cartoon Motion, a ghastly concoction of wildly derivative showtunes and blatant rip-offs, with the most disingenuous lyrics this side of Coldplay’s X&Y. That said, ‘Grace Kelly’, for all its irritating quirks, has the kind of fantastic showboating chorus that only a churl could deny. I won’t argue with those who hate it – it’s just one of those songs.
 
Mika is so eager to please that one resolutely refuses to be pleased. “Why don’t you like me, why don’t you like me…?” – well, where to start? Credit where it’s due, though: nothing could have stopped this going to the top of the chart. “So I tried a little Freddie” – make that “a lot”, and please leave it now.
 
Gracing this with her cheeky chappy, bustly dance, Junior gave it short shrift in the end. It was the ultimate confirmation that small doses of Mika are quite enough. I don’t particularly want to hear ‘Grace Kelly’ anymore, but I’ll stand by his right to be recognised for one inventive song.

[6] Chaka Khan, ‘I Feel For You’

I see the lilac lothario is flavour of the month again after last week’s Brits performance. It was pretty good, yeah, but it doesn’t take a superhuman effort to make the Kaiser Chiefs and Coldplay look ordinary. What a disgrace those awards are. What exactly are they rewarding? Marketing campaigns, that’s what. I mean, no one’s bought that Jack Johnson album, but we’ve all seen it advertised a million flipping times.

Anyway, back to Prince. I’m making a big deal of his writing credit here because I feel a bit guilty about ‘When Doves Cry’ not being in this chart. No, I don’t know why either. Chaka’s performance is great, but it’s the song and the Melle Mel rap that make the record.

I’m also a big fan of the abstract drawing of a slimline soul diva on the single cover, a world away from cuddly Chaka. Junior squealed at the song, bouncing up and down on her baby booty.