Rock critics in various forums have promoted the new British band Coldplay as the next Radiohead, but claiming any such intimate musical kinship for Coldplay and Radiohead is like asserting Chris Rock is the new Mr. T. Radiohead and Coldplay are the most visible manifestations in the pop music eye of two very different traditions. Coldplay’s style is a descendent of The Smiths. Like Gene, another Smiths reincarnation, Coldplay’s lyrics aren’t quite as morbidly melancholy as the famed Manchester group, but their songs nevertheless pay an oblique tribute to Johnny Marr’s haunting guitar and Morrissey’s solipsistic moans of contorted, tortured introspection.
Radiohead, on the other hand has more in common with the Clash, and even REM, their acknowledged idols. But, with Kid A, they show the influence of Aphex Twin, as well as Brian Eno, musically. Thom Yorke’s lyrics evoke snapshots of failed and pressured suburban life juxtaposed against responses to a technological and environmental distopia. While Coldplay sings of the inner, emotional turmoil brought on by failed relationships, Radiohead has another, more social axe to grind with an eclectic, electric digital precision. Lyrically, the style couldn’t be more different. Witness Coldplay’s “Yellow”:
Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you
And everything you do
Yeah they were all yellow
I came along, I wrote a song for you
And all the things you do
And it was called yellow
Now, Radiohead’s “No Surprises”:
A heart that’s full up like a landfill,
a job that slowly kills you,
bruises that won’t heal.
You look so tired-unhappy,
bring down the government,
they don’t, they don’t speak for us.
I’ll take a quiet life,
a handshake of carbon monoxide,
with no alarms and no surprises
Radiohead, as their song “Talk Show Host” listlessly claims, is waiting for the listener with a gun, a pack of sandwiches, and a collage of fragmented sound textures. Coldplay, as in the song “Parachutes,” is waiting in line, patiently, loving you always with their own special millenial blend of brightened ennui.