COLD­PLAY

Thanks to a new­found sense of lib­er­a­tion and ac­cep­tance, mem­bers of Brit su­per- group Cold­play find them­selves in a good place on of­fer­ing up their fifth al­bum, writes James Wigney

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - Con­tin­ued P22

Iden­tity cri­sis? What iden­tity cri­sis?

HE is a rock­star mil­lion­aire, fronts ar­guably the big­gest band of his gen­er­a­tion and is mar­ried to an Os­car­win­ning ac­tress, but a beau­ti­ful wo­man can still turn Chris Martin to jelly.

On its fifth al­bum, Mylo Xy­loto, Cold­play has brought in a guest singer for the first time and front­man Martin ( pic­tured) says the prospect of ask­ing R’n’B god­dess Ri­hanna to do the hon­ours re­duced him to an awk­ward, bum­bling mess.

Martin had writ­ten the song in ques­tion, Princess of China, with the Bar­ba­dian beauty in mind, think­ing he would of­fer a song to her as he had done for artists such as Jamelia and his former girl­friend, Natalie Im­bruglia.

But af­ter show­ing it to his band­mate Guy Ber­ry­man, they de­cided it would be bet­ter done as a duo for the al­bum they were work­ing on.

So at a star-stud­ded New Year’s Eve bash in Las Ve­gas last year, hosted by their mu­tual friend Jay-Z, Martin fi­nally plucked up the courage, which was, as the self-dep­re­cat­ing English­man ac­knowl­edges, not un­like ask­ing the hot girl to the school dance.

‘‘ That was ex­actly how it felt,’’ Martin says with a chuckle, shar­ing a couch with gui­tarist Jonny Buck­land in a New York stu­dio.

‘‘ It was like in Four Wed­dings and a Funeral, when Hugh Grant chases af­ter the girl and goes ‘ do you think, um pos­si­bly if I didn’t say, er, how would you feel about not, not singing on this?’ I was like a bum­bling mess.’’

It might have taken him a while to get there but Martin says the in­clu­sion of the duet, the em­brac­ing of new sounds from dance to hip-hop to in­dus­trial, and the de­ci­sion to make Mylo Xy­loto a con­cept al­bum are all good in­di­ca­tors of where Cold­play is as a band in 2011.

Hav­ing ar­rived with a bang more than a decade ago with the al­bum Para­chutes and its mon­ster hit Yel­low , and fol­low­ing it up with the even big­ger, mul­ti­ple Grammy-win­ning A Rush of Blood to the Head in 2002, Cold­play was hav­ing some­thing of an iden­tity cri­sis af­ter the re­lease of 2005 al­bum X& Y.

It was around that time the New York Times la­belled the Bri­tish four­some ‘‘ the most in­suf­fer­able band of the decade’’, and as a band whose as­cent co­in­cided with that of so­cial me­dia and the bl­o­go­sphere, the level of vit­riol aimed their way seemed far out of pro­por­tion to their achieve­ments or per­ceived crimes.

But from that bap­tism of fire came a rev­e­la­tion.

‘‘ I think once you ac­cept that ha­tred then you can fo­cus on en­ter­tain­ing the peo­ple who like you or want to like you,’’ Martin says.

‘‘ But def­i­nitely for a pe­riod, prob­a­bly around X& Y, when we hadn’t yet learnt how to switch off Google and you could put in Cold­play and see all the re­sults.

‘‘ But I think ev­ery­body for a while was a bit over­whelmed by the mass of opinion.’’

The band emerged all the stronger from the ex­pe­ri­ence, en­list­ing the help of sonic guru Brian Eno for Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, which be­came the world’s high­est sell­ing al­bum of 2008, with more than 9 mil­lion copies sold.

Buck­land says the new al­bum is very much a de­vel­op­ment from its pre­de­ces­sor, and builds on the con­fi­dence and fo­cus that Eno brought to bear.

The band even coined a term for the in­put of the man who first found fame with ’ 70s act Roxy Mu­sic and went on to pro­duce seven al­bums for U2 – Enox­i­fi­ca­tion.

‘‘ It’s a de­scrip­tion of how he fits into the process,’’ Martin says.

‘‘ It isn’t pro­duc­ing, it’s his own weird thing. He plays in the room as a band mem­ber but it’s so hard to ex­plain what he does.’’

Buck­land has a stab: ‘‘ He al­lows us to feel free and to feel like it’s OK to look stupid and to do things that maybe don’t work.

‘‘ The main thing he brings is just an en­joy­ment of dis­cov­er­ing new things.’’

De­spite hav­ing had a string of hit sin­gles from Yel­low to Clocks to

Speed of Sound to Viva La Vida, the band is adamant Cold­play is best suited to the longer al­bum for­mat.

‘‘ Peo­ple barely lis­ten to whole songs any more, never mind whole al­bums, so we thought let’s go the other way and make the best al­bum we pos­si­bly can,’’ Buck­land says.

‘‘ We wanted to make the most mean­ing­ful and co­her­ent 45 min­utes of mu­sic that we could.’’

Five al­bums in, Cold­play re­mains a strange mix of self-as­sured­ness and in­se­cu­rity.

Dur­ing this in­ter­view, which took place a cou­ple of weeks af­ter they had de­liv­ered the fin­ished al­bum to the la­bel but a month be­fore its re­lease, Martin and Buck­land ad­mit to be­ing more ner­vous than ever about how it will be re­ceived.

‘‘ If you care about some­thing and you put every­thing into it, whether it’s an al­bum or a cake, you are a bit ner­vous when peo­ple are about to taste it,’’ Martin says.

‘‘ It ac­tu­ally gets harder be­cause you hope things will be as­sessed for them­selves and not too much be­cause of your his­tory or the way you are per­ceived.’’

That said, Martin ( pic­tured) and his band­mates also seem more com­fort­able with where they fit into the mu­sic pan­theon. Just a few years ago, as the band was pon­der­ing en­ter­ing its sec­ond decade, Martin said he acutely felt the pres­sure of pro­duc­ing some­thing truly great and hinted the band could split sooner rather than later.

But their new­found sense of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and their en­dur­ing suc­cess has also brought lib­er­a­tion and ac­cep­tance.

‘‘ I think if there is one thing that we have tried to avoid on our fifth record it’s that feel­ing of try­ing to be some­body else,’’ Martin says. ‘‘ There are a cou­ple of mo­ments on the new record where you can’t re­ally hear what the in­flu­ences are, which is pos­si­bly a good thing.

‘‘ I think that once you ac­cept that you can never outdo the Bea­tles then you can re­lax a bit.

‘‘ No mat­ter what hap­pens you can never be the big­gest band ever.’’

Cold­play re­cently vis­ited these shores to head­line the Splen­dour in the Grass fes­ti­val but Martin, de­spite start­ing a Euro­pean tour in De­cem­ber, is not sure when the band will be back this way.

‘‘ We haven’t even got the self­as­sur­ance to or­der break­fast right now let alone plan a tour,’’ he says, wryly. ‘‘ We will wait and see a bit.’’

The band has long had a loyal fol­low­ing in Aus­tralia and teamed with John Farn­ham for a rous­ing ver­sion of You’re the Voice at the Syd­ney Sound Re­lief bush­fire fundraiser on their 2009 tour.

They have also en­listed the help of an­other Aus­tralian mu­sic great on the new al­bum’s first sin­gle, Ev­ery

Teardrop is a Wa­ter­fall, which fea­tures a sam­ple from Peter Allen’s

I GoToRio.

Martin was watch­ing Ale­jan­dro Gon­za­lez Iar­ritu’s film Biu­ti­ful, when a two-chord riff from a song used in the movie got stuck in his head. ‘‘ It was this Euro an­them called

Ritmo De La Noche and that in it­self was a sam­ple of I GoToRio,’’ Martin says. ‘‘ Then I learnt about Hugh Jack­man do­ing The Boy From Oz so we wrote to Peter Allen’s es­tate and asked to use it and they very nicely said ‘ yes’. In re­turn for a small fee of course.’’

So first Farn­ham, now Allen, who’s next, Rolf Har­ris?

‘‘ I’m sure he is ner­vous,’’ Martin says. ‘‘ Will was singing Rolf’s ver­sion

of Stair­way To Heaven the other day,’’ of­fers Buck­land.

‘‘ Will does a great Rolf Har­ris im­pres­sion,’’ agrees Martin.

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