Parachutes ‘Coldplay’ Album Review
On The Needle With Ryan Moeller
July 20, 2000
Pitchfork Music Rating: 5.3
Personal rating: 7.3
With the weeks leading up to Coldplay’s release of A Head Full Of Dreams, fans were eager to hear the band's new sound. Four years prior, Coldplay started incorporating more pop elements in their music with the 2011 release of Mylo Xyloto. Three years after that, Coldplay took their sound in a new minimalistic direction on the album Ghost Stories, but one album and one song in particular made all of this possible over a decade later.
In 1998, pianist Chris Martin, guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion met at the University of London and eventually formed a band. While they are known as Coldplay now, the band first started out as a series of jam sessions between Martin and Buckland.
“We were living in the same building at college [...] Jonny was sitting at 3:00 in the morning playing some piece on guitar in a room nearby [...] And something in my brain was like,"OK, let's meet tomorrow." And we did. And then we spent everyday together since,” Martin said in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine.
Eventually, Berryman and Champion joined the group now known as Coldplay.
After the fall out of the brit-pop movement in the mid-to-late 1990s, Coldplay set out to find a new sound for the next generation. With the release of Parachutes in 2000, Coldplay marked their spot in popular music with their soft pop rock music; however, their sound caused controversy among music critics.
“I haven't been to the record store in a long time. But I'm sure there is a new section there, somewhere between ‘rock’ and ‘pop’, titled "bands-that-people-think-sound-like-Radiohead," one music reviewer, Michael Walls, described their sound by saying.
Having only released two EPs titled The Blue Room and Brother And Sisters under their name, Coldplay released Parachutes as their first full length album a year later on July 20, 2000 under Parlophone Records. Parachutes contains 10 tracks totaling in forty-one minutes.
Overall, the sound of the album is melancholic and depressing, something along the lines of Radiohead’s sound during The Bends era or Sixpence None The Richer’s sound on their first three albums. The typical production on this album includes an acoustic guitar, clean electric guitars, bass and drums. Everything on this album is very well played and each member shows their own individual musicianship. The song lengths on this album range anywhere from 46 seconds on the title track Parachutes, to the nearly seven and a half minute closer, Everything’s Not Lost.
Out of the two previous EPs, few songs have made the final cut for Parachutes: Don’t Panic being one of them. The album opens up with an electric guitar being strummed with a laid back rhythm. Other instruments soon come in filling out the empty space in the speakers. Lyrically, Don’t Panic is about how everything that we have is going to be ruined by the world’s natural tendencies.
“Bones sinking like stones/all that we’ve fought for/homes, places we’ve grown/all of us are done for,” Martin sings, “we live in a beautiful world/yeah we do/yeah we do/we live in a beautiful world.”
A good deal of thought from the band goes into making the mood of the song match the lyrical content through a slow tempo and single piano lines.
Even back in 2000, no Coldplay song would be complete without a confusing music video. The video for Don’t Panic is designed to look like a paper diagram of the environment with the band cooking and fishing on boats. The overall message, as weird as it may sound, is about the water cycle and natural disasters. At the end of the video everything gets encapsulated by the yellow globe found on the album artwork.
Despite being “a blatant Jeff Buckley attempt,” as Martin has said in an NME interview, Shiver exhibits the underrated musicianship of Coldplay. Shiver, lyrically, is about unrequited love felt by the lead singer. Buckland starts the song off by picking a clean guitar riff that soon turns into distorted madness sliding up and down the neck. All of the music soon cuts out to Martin’s soft vocals,
“so I look in your direction/but you pay me no attention, do you.”
Much like the artist Coldplay is trying to copy, the vocals have a tremendous amount of soul to them as they soar over the guitars and drums.
While some may attribute the success of Parachutes to the changing sound of Radiohead, it was possibly yellow that made them pop sensations.
“I was doing [some] singing [...] I just started playing this song about [the] stars [...] I said to Ken, our producer, ah, record this [...] and then I thought yellow, yellow, yellow,” Martin stated in an interview with Max Music.
For the band, it was a good thing they did record the song; According to Yahoo Music, Yellow peaked at number four on the charts while selling over 2.5 million copies between the U.S. and UK as of 2015. Without the release of this song, the band may have broken up before ever hitting it big.