Coldplay Goes For Greatness

Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

Although he knows it will sound slightly corny and mildly arrogant in print, with a little nudging Coldplay's Chris Martin admits, "We want to be the best band of all time."

Taking it one step further and acknowledging that this may seem terribly hokey, the young English band's frontman explains his ultimate goal for Coldplay -- whose sophomore outing, "A Rush of Blood to the Head," arrives Aug. 27 on Capitol -- thus: "Because the world will eventually end, I would really like it if on some alien planet, in a million years' time, you were able to purchase a CD called 'The Best of the Earth - Ever!' and we were on it. That's a slightly childish way of saying it, but that's what drives me. We don't want to be just" -- he pauses and restarts -- "I just want to make the best music of all time with my best friends."

If the band flirted with greatness on its multi-million-selling debut, 2000's "Parachutes," the stop-and-start making of "Rush of Blood" suggests that the act is now aggressively courting musical immortality. During the 10 months they spent making the new album, Martin and company proved they are willing to put in the work to be the best.

At the start of this year, the band thought it was nearly finished with "Rush of Blood." Then it began to feel that many of the finished songs seemed a bit contrived and forced. The band had essentially leapt into the studio, eager to record the new material it had written during the lengthy promotion of "Parachutes," but after a while, things seemed to be flowing a little too easily, which made Martin suspicious. "My theory," he says, on the phone from England, "is that every record should be difficult to make -- if you care about it."

So instead of going forward with those songs, the band switched studios (moving from London to Liverpool) and dug deeper in search of material that was better, more soulful. While working in Liverpool with "Parachutes" helmsman Ken Nelson once again at their side, the members of Coldplay -- vocalist/guitarist Martin, guitarist Jon Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman, and drummer Will Champion -- found themselves obsessing over the 11 songs on the new album.

Martin would often wake in the middle of the night, wanting desperately to get back to work on melodies, bridges, bass, drum parts -- whatever. "When we have a song that I really like -- that we really like -- I can't sleep or anything until it's done properly," he says. "It's all I think about. That's the most amazing privilege in the world: to be able to worry about whether a song's being recorded properly. You know, I don't have to worry about working in a mine or looking after my 10 kids. I'm allowed to be obsessed with the middle eight of a difficult song. And it's amazingly cool to be able to be that geeky about something."

Full of passion but devoid of pomp, Martin gushes about the acclaim and good fortune showered upon the band since the gorgeous "Parachutes" single "Yellow" rocketed the pack of University College London pals from obscurity to the heights of commercial success. The song peaked at No. 6 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart and No. 48 on The Billboard Hot 100, while "Parachutes" has sold more than 1.2 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, and roughly 5 million worldwide, according to Capitol. (Martin contemplates this good luck and his given station in life on "In My Place," the shimmering first single from "Rush of Blood.")

Although the band gave "Rush of Blood" its all, Martin acknowledges that that does not necessarily make the album good. The set may not be as accessible as "Parachutes," but, make no mistake, it is indeed good. Highlighted by the already classic-feeling "In My Place" and the maudlin, piano-laden "The Scientist," the album finds the group displaying a new confidence and maturity in everything from its lyrics to its arrangements while maintaining the passion and edge of a young band.

As he waits for the world's response, Martin says he feels like he's awaiting exam results. "[The album] is a bit different," he says, "and we're slightly worried about it. But we didn't want to make the same record again."

He's getting a taste of that global reaction now, and that will continue during the next few weeks, as the band is previewing "Rush of Blood" at small venues in major U.S. cities. The video for "In My Place," meanwhile, is getting exposure on MTV and MTV2; the track has climbed to No. 19 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.

As Martin speaks of the future and musical immortality, one comment he makes seems to suggest that there will always be one constant in Coldplay's songs, regardless of the direction the band chooses: "We're trying to do what we do with the maximum amount of soul possible."




Excerpted from the Aug. 17, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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