Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Track Attack- "The Scientist" (Coldplay, 2002)

"Isn't it a pity
Now, isn't it a shame
How we break each other's hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other's love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Isn't it a pity."
Those gorgeously simplistic, sobering words were sung by ex-Beatle George Harrison for 1970's "Isn't It A Pity (Version One)". Whispered underneath funereal orchestration, the words themselves ring loud and clear. No matter how hard we try, no matter what we do, we're bound to break someone's heart. It's a certainty as great as the Sun rising in the east and setting in the west. Often times we do it without even realizing it. And the reason is simple: we're imperfect and imperfection breeds pain.

With this pain and the Harrison classic on his mind, Coldplay's Chris Martin sat down in 2001 to fill in the missing piece of upcoming sophomore LP A Rush of Blood to the Head. Martin's admitted  "The Scientist" was born out of an inability to work on Harrison's tune and the moment the song’s four-chord piano melody rings out; you're hearing a half-remembered cover. Granted, the cover in question is one performed with supreme confidence. Where the piano is one of many instruments squeezed into "Isn't It A Pity"'s group-portrait, it stands alone for the first verse of "The Scientist". It's all a weary Martin can prop himself up on.

"Weary" is really the only way to describe Martin's falsetto here. While it would be lambasted in subsequent years, in 2002 it was relatively new and mysterious. So beguilingly powerful it was, Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield was moved to say the finale (which relies heavily on falsetto) "could raise every hair on the back of your neck." Like the piano notes, each phrase is allowed equal time to writhe around before being shooed away. That said, certain lyrics are clearly given emotional precedence in A Rush of Blood to the Head's second single. Martin's on record as saying "That's just about girls. It's weird that whatever else is on your mind, whether it's the downfall of global economics or terrible environmental troubles, the thing that always gets you most is when you fancy someone." Despite whatever sappiness drips out of that sentiment, its truth speaks as loud as Martin's heart in the song. There have been times when in the throes of love, the first (and last thing) I think of on a given day is a particular person. After a certain point, days begin to feel cyclical because their bookends are the same. Everything blurs together into a haze of passion and dejection.

Throughout the slow-builder, Martin is desperate to "go back to the start," to a time when the only emotion was unbridled happiness. As Jonny Buckland's shiftless acoustic guitar starts up and Will Champion's drums gently enter, Martin's begging to be haunted again. He can't keep from looking back to when things were significantly less difficult. For Martin, the romance has ended but he's still replaying individual scenes in his mind. Late nights spent sharing secrets are remembered long after the film ran out. Whether or not those memories can materialize again is unknown. If they do, it won't be easy.

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