Monday, January 31, 2011

The top 10 albums of the '00s: No. 8


Before Apple. Before Gwyneth. Before all those Make Trade Fair gestures. Chris Martin was just a student playing with Will Champion, Jonny Buckland and Guy Berryman, unconsciously exploring his vulnerability as he sang a paean to a woman ("Yellow"), wished she would notice him ("Shiver"), and longed, in one respect or another, for connection. He was someone more like us.

On this concise monument to young adulthood, Martin's appeal for love and togetherness is part quaver, part croon. The tender sway of "Sparks" could have served as the soundtrack to much dorm-room necking, but Parachutes wasn't focused on the sex. Intimacy was the goal. If only it wasn't so hard to reach ...

"Trouble" starts out with stately piano and a confident guitar riff, but then, like anxiety creeping up, they fade out, and in comes Martin's opening: "Oh, no / I see / a spider web is tangled up with me." This idea of being trapped also comes up on "High Speed" ("We been living life inside a bubble"), and the dour, largely acoustic "We Never Change" sees him stuck repeating his mistakes, unable to move forward and achieve what he wishes.

"Don't panic," that hoary air of reassurance, seems like something Martin would have heard a few times amid his fretfulness, and "Don't Panic" bookends with "Everything's Not Lost," the album's last track. While "Everything's Not Lost" bursts with jubilance, having made it to the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, "Don't Panic" finds Martin with a chorus of "We live in a beautiful world." He sings it with something less than certainty: He sings it as if trying to convince himself it's true.

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