Tuesday, August 01, 2006

We Wish We Were Coldplay

I like Coldplay. I don't think they are singlehandedly responsible for the death of good music like many other people think. Actually, I have seen them live and they are very, very good. But when Coldplay hit it big in the United States a funny thing happened. All these other bands appeared sounding an awful lot like Mr. Martin and friends. This created a problem for the discerning music listener. How do you sift through all these bands to find something valuable. Here are two bands that I think were just original enough to be Coldplayesque without losing their own identity. Neither had the success (or celebrity marriages) of Coldplay but they still made a few enjoyable albums.

The Scottish band Travis started out making records that were loud and slightly punky (think Arctic Monkeys without the funky rhythm section). Then with their second album, THE MAN WHO, Travis went into sensitive folk rock mode and found some US success. Released around the same time as the first Coldplay record, Travis was supposed to be the bigger band but fate (or bad PR by the record label) was unkind and they never really got a foothold over here. Still the songs had that bouncy feel that comes with good musicianship and quirky lyrics about seeminly mundane things. The single "Why Does It Always Rain On Me" could be a lost Smiths song. Their third album, THE INVISIBLE BAND, was very similar to the previous and that meant they were unable to pick up any new fans. But the song "Side" still has a great chorus and is the kind of uplifting message and sound that would have fit well with a TV Show soundtrack.

(mp3) Travis -- Writing To Reach You (from The Man Who)
(mp3) Travis -- Why Does It Always Rain On Me? (from The Man Who)
(mp3) Travis -- Side (from The Invisible Band)
(mp3) Travis -- Follow The Light (from the Invisible Band)

A slightly different take on the brit pop formula came from Starsailor. This British four piece again arrived in the US at around the same time as all the other big britpoppers. They cam equipped with the standard sensitive singer with the high pitched voice. But the music has a slightly majestic quality. The songs on their first album, LOVE IS HERE, seemed to take off about midway through. You really get the sense that the band thought long and hard about each note. "Poor Misguided Fool" is a wonderous track full of longing and loss. "Love is Here" is another majestic track with a positive message. The band had little success in the States but has had a nice career in Europe where they are preparing a new album.

(mp3) Starsailor -- Poor Misguided Fool
(mp3) Starsailor -- Love Is Here

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