Friday, May 23, 2008
Climbing Up On "Violet Hill"
The members of Coldplay don't do themselves any favors with their new video for single "Violet Hill," which dramatically swipes from the Beatles' late sixties, Magical Mystery Tour-era short films and feels loaded without a strained, psychedelic Goonishness that's archaic, to say the least. This mop-toppy approach is further enhanced by the feedback-heavy guitar chords and big drum sounds that recall "Helter Skelter" (even as Chris Martin's filtered vocals sound more like Plastic Ono Band-era John Lennon, a tone which intertwines nicely with the clipped, Lennonesque usage of nursery rhyme-phrasing-as-political commentary in the lyrics). I can't quite decide if the climb up the mountain at the end is an hommage to Lord of the Rings or to Coldplay's other big influence, U2 (specifically, the snow-drenched videos for War).
Maybe this game of spot-the-reference is an unfair way of judging the video's effect, but it's one the band itself invites with their deliberate aural and visual pastiches; but where earlier Coldplay singles and albums used those influences as launching pads for their own material-- quotations you could hear, but only in the context of Coldplay's own, deeply pleasurable melodic gifts-- the weight of all that past seems to weigh "Violet Hill" down. It transforms the lyric's oblique swipes at Bush/Blair era political maneuvering ("When the future's architectured/By a carnival of idiots on show/You'd better lie low... /Was a long and dark December/When the banks became cathedrals/And the fog /Became God") into an ironic self-critique about treating bands as churches, and past pop songs as a liturgy to be endlessly recited and recycled by the next generation.