There’s Something Cold About the Way You Play


Sky Madden | Rich Media Editor
Also available via the *Scene blogs
The first time I ever heard Coldplay was a couple weeks before high school started. I had snuck in through the basement of the house where my then-girlfriend was babysitting. We were watching MTV2 in the master bedroom. Awkwardly snuggled up on a mountain of duvet covers we ate whatever we could find from the pantry that wasn’t baby food. Sometime during the middle of the night Coldplay’s “Shiver” video came on. There Chris Martin, Will Champion, Johnny Buckland and Guy Berryman played in a modest, white-walled recording space. They were nerdy and sweet. Terrible swooping camera angles moved circularly as the crescendo ensued just before Chris opened his mouth. I remember feeling warm and comfortable in that moment and later on that falI would feel the same when I’d go to my girlfriend’s house and we’d fall asleep to the slower tracks of “Parachutes” (2000). Later that year, she would leave me for the captain of the lacrosse team. He was blonde, handsome, tall and had it for her for months and months. This time she couldn’t hold off. The rasp of Chris Martin’s voice would become a thorn in my side, but alas the non-descript and aloof young men would yet again provide important tracks to my youth’s romantic soundtrack sagas.

"I'm this close to being Bono!" Coldplay, a band that originally called themselves 'Starfish' began recording in London, England in 1998. The quartet has gone through a transformative career since then in terms of sound and image. Sky Madden writes on her personal experience with Coldplay's life line starting in 1999. Above, Chris Martin appears with Coldplay at Giants stadium in October 2008. (Sky Madden for the Foghorn)

The next time I heard the chill of Chris’s voice and the rustle of Johnny Buckland’s pining verse guitar was in the winter of 2004. At that time, I often drove my girlfriend and myself around in the night to get away from the town to escape the danger of being found out. We’d go to town parks to star gaze and talk about the divine nerdiness of her AP English teacher of whom we both found socially inept but intellectually invaluable. When we were together it was always dark. I didn’t realize it then but the literal soundtrack to our time together was much more important than I had even realized. Thinking back now, my senses had only my ears to depend on for sensory memory. I remember us together but I can barely make out what I saw in the night. I would look over at her while on a road I knew well. Shadows of trees and telephone wires penetrated the windshield and would race up her face. My memory folder of “us” now almost exclusively holds auditory files.  On a frigid night I pulled into her lose rock driveway. My then-girlfriend threw the “Garden State” soundtrack into the car. I was of course furious, even though I hadn’t even seen the film but she convinced me to just let it play. “Don’t Panic” creaked from the burgundy VW wagon stereo and we trailed off into the snow and the night. But yes… admittedly so I realize this to be a banal and easy albeit effective motif that other relationships have also enjoyed since “Parachutes” was released, I’m sure. A year later I went to college and we couldn’t make it work.  A painful, tumultuous first semester went by and at that point my roommate–of course obsessed with Jeff Buckley, Radiohead and Coldplay had tickets to see the Fiona Apple/Coldplay tour on January 31, 2005.  Earlier that day “Don’t Panic” came full circle. My girlfriend called to tell me she couldn’t be in such an intense relationship with someone who lived so far away. I missed the show and spent the rest of the night trying to get her back.

Call me sensitive or indulgently nostalgic but by the time “X & Y” (2005) came out I could not do so much as look at a poster of Gwenyth Paltrow without getting a little sick. In between these aural pathos encounters I also watched Chris Rock crack a joke after their VMA performance somewhere around the turn of the century.  He said, “Okay now,” and looked at the MTV camera, “go home and slit your wrists!” — or something along those lines.

I have since deleted all of my Coldplay material from my computer and still have never heard more than two tracks from “X & Y.”

It’s been years since I’d thought about Chris Martin and the gang and all the indirect pain they had caused my teenage heart until one morning last summer.  Their faces appeared on a magazine cover at my feet upon the door step of my now girlfriends’ parents house in southern California. In Coldplay’s cover page article in the July 2008 issue of SPIN Chris Martin was quoted saying that he’d be, “Surprised if the album didn’t save the world.” Did this stop me from buying the album? Yes. Did it stop me from going to see them in New York/New Jersey last week via a Filter/Virgin America airlines contest? No. I assume I’m not the first person to call Coldplay the Chris Martin show. During the “Viva La Vida” tour, through my eyes it was exactly this. The non-Chris Martin members idly played their instruments the way they would do their dishes or brush their teeth.

“Shiver,” one of the opening songs rang out into the dome. A ping of giddy nostalgia and glee shot up from my stomach and into my throat. It then fizzled just as quickly. “You know how much I need you but you never even see me do you?” he moaned. Any trace of wistfulness exited my veins… and out my 21-year-old heart which now beats smoothly and regularly. He’s not really going to croon all the way down that catwalk in that civil war jacket is he, I think to myself.  What’s happened?  What is Coldplay?  I am now astonished at my hollow self.

Is it the “cool dad syndrome” beguiling Chris Martin now? It’s possible that I couldn’t get visions of him riding Paltrow out of my head as he humped the round piano chair or the fact that what I understand the band’s writing process to now be is: hiring veterans of the pop rock scene such as Brian Eno to doctor up a flaccid career. Or was it me watching Chris continually check himself out on the big plasma monitors as he belted out the chorus to “Lost! ” that inverted my skeletal passion from years past? How could the joy of learning to play “Trouble” on the piano turn to the scoffing and upright dismissal of Martin’s lame stage antics?  Maybe it’s their openness with regard towards their desire to essentially be U2?  Maybe it was the corporate sponsorship painted all around them and the Coors light beer bottles that rattled around at my feet from the “bridge and tunnel” crowd to my left. Whatever it was that I was feeling… was new. It was something dispassionate and it was part of being the victim of something potentially dishonest. To me the stage was near vacuous and I felt as sober and disconnected as I could except for small pieces of the thread and tissue of puzzlement that barely fused my relationship with the (late) Coldplay.

“Thank you for Tivo-ing whatever show you’d be watching tonight,” Martin said after the first couple songs. It was the first time he directly addressed the audience. Later on he would say “This song is a sad song. It’s dedicated to Jenifer Hudson.” Hmmmm. I think to myself–what does this have to do with anything? People’s families are shot up everyday. I thought I was going to hear Chris Martin talk about how coffee bean trading is ruthless but I guess that was the schtick for the second album they released. The last time he spoke to us, that I can recount, considering I left mid encore (see video) was, “Hey congratulate all the guys in the band for staying skinny. When we first started out we couldn’t even get a bag of chips for free and now everywhere we go we get a free cake, people are always giving us cakes.” He stood from behind a piano on the west catwalk, “Give them a round of applause.” Bizarre, I think to myself and give a confused frown.

After their pre-encore, for which the band appeared in the nosebleed section to do an acoustic version of “The Scientist.” Martin subversively attacked the Jonas Brothers by mentioning them three times before providing the vocals for the tune. “This a Jonas Brothers song, it’s called ‘The Scientist’,” Martin said. My now-girlfriend, Lulu McAllister, stood next to me during the show. As the four pseudo-revolutionaries ambled back to the main stage the crowd cheered and clapped in unison as if we were at a Knicks game. A techno-remix of “Viva La Vida,” a song already played by the band earlier in the night, thundered inside the arena. I asked Lulu, “They’re joking right?” “No,” she said, and looked on to see what on earth would happen next.

What has happened between now and then? Too many classes with Professors Kim, Kidd and Goodwin to be scooped up by the baroque and grandiose Coldplay schema that the Giants Stadium had to offer me last week? The disenfranchisement and lack of connection I felt when “Clocks” finally came on hurt me more than when it churned my stomach when I used to hear it after the second girl had broken up with me.

You hurt me Coldplay. You hurt me good this time.


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