Shelf Life


Some music is beautiful and timeless to me. I love it the first time I hear it (well, more likely the third time but that’s not as poetic) and I love it still.

Some music isn’t. And it sits around on my iPod reminding me that either:

  • Love is transitory, or
  • I used to have shit taste.

Coldplay are a minor offender in this area. I’ll always like ‘Clocks’, mostly for its first 30 seconds. But the rest of A Rush of Blood to the Head really grates when it comes up in my random playlist, and for a while I banned it from my playlist. And I’ve no desire to buy X&Y — having heard a single from it on the radio, it sounds just like everything I’ve heard before. Perhaps a little more tightly honed.

I get this image of Coldplay sitting around, desperately trying to sound like the platonic ideal of themselves.

But my Coldplay backlash doesn’t even begin to rival my Travis backlash. Every time they pop up on my iPod I have to skip them, even ‘Sing’, which I used to really like. Now, it all sounds like painfully happy treacley ikkiness. I listen to a bit of it and wonder how depressed I must have been to have needed such relentless happiness blasted into my ears.

But then, I may be odd in that I find sad music uplifting and happy music depressing, in much the same way that I like cold blustery days more than shiny sunny ones. I think it’s a contrast thing.

And just to show that my taste now is probably as bad as it’s ever been, the track I’m always hanging out for my iPod to shuffle to is Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’. Now there’s a single that has everything.


7 Responses to “Shelf Life”

  1. Since no one else reads this I can safely say that I too like Toxic, especially the cords at the start. Pop music may be generally bland but it is catchy sometimes.

    There’s something special about a song you like to listen to coming up randomly. It’s exciting when you’re listening to a radio but for some reason I find it’s just as exciting when I’ve made a playlist of my favourite songs. Simply selecting the song doesn’t have the same enjoyment factor.

  2. The trouble with radio is that your songs just don’t turn up often enough to satisfy. My current odds are 1 in 2000 for a given song, which seems about right. I used to have 400 songs and the good ones came around too often.

    I also like the twangy guitar towards the end of Toxic. And other things. I’d listen to it again but I’m waiting for it to randomly arrive.

  3. Travis and Coldplay both strike me as bands that had one (vaguely) good idea which was enough to produce one good album (Man Who and Parachutes respectively) and since then have just being repeating that one idea again and again. Mind you, that is one more (vaguely) good idea than most of us ever have.

    But boring as that may be, it seems to be serving them pretty well, particularly Coldplay. I doubt whether I would be all that adventurous if being repetitive would ensure me Top 10 singles and albums around the world and the pretty piles of money associated with that.

    On the other hand, I would suspect much of the sameness would be due to record company pressure. They have a habit of being even keener on pretty piles of money than individuals (especially since theirs are generally larger). I have heard/read interviews with both bands suggesting that their future albums would have a heavier sound and then we just get more of the same. That could well be down to some faceless record company exec.

    It is also interesting how quickly music which a few years ago sound new and original becomes standard and mainstream. A prime example would be Kid A, which was widely attacked for being too out there/experimental on its release but is now generally accepted as one of Radiohead’s best and most influential records. When you start of as M.O.R as Coldplay/Travis, a few years can really date you.

    Personally, I’m more an ‘Oops!…I did it again’ fan.

  4. ‘Oops!… I Did It Again’ suffers to me from the red jumpsuit. It does nothing for me. Now, air hostess uniforms… Oh, hang on, the music bit. The meaning of the lyrics is too obvious in Oops for my tastes. I don’t know if it’s just because she’s mumbling, but I can barely work out what she’s saying in ‘Toxic’ and I like it like that.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we do have the record labels to blame for this Coldplay-trend from modern groups. But then, would it be fairer to lay the blame on the people who make this commercial landscape a reality? It wouldn’t be making money if people didn’t expect the same thing, again, every time, from their favourite bands.

    Now, let me try a sweeping generalisation: Have all the really good bands in history had at least one major reinvention/change in style?

  5. The best I could come up with were R.E.M., U2 and Queen, all of which it is debatable whether they are ‘really good bands’. And I only know the music of REM well so it is possible the others had a reinvention I have forgotten/don’t know about.

    Interestingly, they are all largely ’80s bands which suggests a possible re-postulation of your sweeping generalisation:

    All the really good bands were in the ’60s and ’70s when there were lots of new musical ideas and music was evolving so fast that reinvention was almost inevitable. Now most of the good ideas have been used up so there are many less good bands and less reinvention.

    On more serious matters, I had never considered the lyrics of ‘Oops..’ obvious. To me, they are laced with subtleties, double meanings, metaphors, imagery… And you call yourself an arts student. Would Shakespeare himself not have been proud of this:

    “I think I did it again/I made you believe we’re more than just friends/Oh baby/It might seem like a crush/But it doesn’t mean that I’m serious/‘Cause to lose all my senses/That is just so typically me/Oh baby, baby”

    If there is one thing I have always thought was missing from his work, it was a few ‘Oh baby, baby’s.

  6. Those are pretty decent bands. Perhaps, if a group has undergone a serious reinvention, they’re more likely to be really great. Or vice versa.

    I’m sure any Shakespeare scholar worth his salt could point to an “oh baby, baby” or similar in one of Shakespeare’s plays. But I can’t think of one just now.

  7. I’ve decided that I think of Coldplay CDs as ‘upgrades’. If someone’s listening to ‘Parachutes’ then you’re quite within rights to ask why they haven’t upgraded to Coldplay Version 3.0 X&Y. It’s got a whole bunch of bugfixes but no new features.