When I was 14, I found new music the only way I knew how - through the CD catalogue at my library. I had to march for fifteen miles in the snow to get to the ancient building, and back then you checked out items via stone tablet and chisel...
I plucked A Rush of Blood To The Head and Parachutes off the shelves. What occurred after, for better or worse, was a seminal moment in any teenager - I found my taste. I'd grown up and over the juvenile pop that had been marketed to me in my pre-pubescence, and now found myself at home in the alternative rock (yeah, those albums were alternative rock) of Coldplay.
The sound was warm and melancholic. They had not yet discovered their formula for the chart-topping rock anthem, and so each song felt like little explorations. It's hard to beat the original brilliance of Don't Panic or Yellow off their first album. The first half of A Rush of Blood to the Head is almost flawless.
So I became a Coldplay junkie, eagerly lapping up their third album x&y, even though it was lackluster. The band themselves admitted they didn't like it, only really holding onto Fix You in any of their live sets. Their fourth album Viva La Vida, proved to be their best. And if you listened carefully to each song, you could spot the self-confidence in each of them. They knew they were onto something.
By now, I'd been with the band for almost ten years. Viva La Vida was a mammoth success, and saw them become more mainstream than I had ever thought they would be. Fix You broke them into a new stratosphere. And I never suffered from the hipster curse of only liking the obscure (they were never that obscure anyway) - it's just that it felt like they were growing into a different band. I liked the growth. The concert for Viva La Vida was astounding.
Then Mylo Xyloto came along. We were both years older by this stage. Where tracks on previous albums had felt restrained and creative, Mylo Xyloto was a deliberate explosion of colour and sound. The stadium tour featured pyrotechnics, individual neon wrist-bands for every audience member, and power anthem after power anthem. It was intense. And if I'm honest, I didn't particularly like it. Too many of the tunes sounded similar. Restrained, or even smart, were not words I would use with Mylo Xyloto.
In a short while, Coldplay will release their sixth album. Ghost Stories will be released worldwide in May. Their first single, Magic, has left me perplexed. I flat out don't like the song. It doesn't inspire anything in me. Are Coldplay not as good as they used to be, or have I just outgrown them? Or have we gone in separate paths, perhaps to be reunited in later years?
And is this too a seminal moment in any cultural growth? The point where the thing you love becomes the thing you used to love, the thing upon which you shake your head in half-remembered shame and find it difficult to believe you could ever feel attached to something so shallow.
I don't want to grow up past Coldplay. They've been with me through a lot. Parachutes and A Rush of Blood To The Head got me through high school, Viva La Vida got me through my clumsy first years as an adult. Now married and settled, Ghost Stories seems an aptly named title for the end of something rather than its continuation.
I have little choice in the matter, for it seems Magic is most definitely proving, at the very least, a track worthy of note. I think I might sit this one out, Coldplay. Hope you don't mind. I promise to stay in touch. I'll see you for the album after this one...
Although as I assemble the YouTube clips for this post, I find myself thinking I should get out the old albums again. And maybe Magic isn't that bad after all...maybe it just needs a few listens...