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Baby, 'Christmas Lights' is a Coldplay surprise

Pop Life

It's been eight years since the Kleenexian Brits in Coldplay recorded anything that made me feel gushy, weepy, blissfully unmanly — actually make that eight years, two minutes and 12 seconds. But wow (sniff!) the bawlin' boys are back.

I fell out of favor with singer Chris Martin & Co. after 2002's masterful A Rush of Blood to the Head. Clocks and The Scientist are two of the tingliest songs of the new century. But the band's anthemic piano and gravitas grew cloying, phony; my adoration eventually turned to annoyance.

So when I cued up the band's new holiday single, Christmas Lights, I wasn't expecting much. And as the song started, I thought: Martin really needs to blow his nose. But alas, the piano is notably warm, like Vince Guaraldi's Snoopy work, which I love. The longing lyrics, while very Coldplayful, are effectively obtuse: "Still waiting for the snow to fall / It doesn't really feel like Christmas at all."

But at the song's 2:12 mark, there arrives a sudden tonal shift; the song almost stops. The quartet then kicks into a bittersweet toast, rousing and chummy, soaring and gorgeous. "May all your troubles soon be gone," Martin sings as the bombast, coproduced by Brian Eno, crescendoes to an emotional finish. The accompanying Elvis-flecked video is mesmerizing, too. However, I recommended listening to Christmas Lights in a quiet room with drink in hand and nothing illuminated but the tree.

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DALY DOSE: random musings on pop

'I heard you missed us! We're back!'

A few days ago a reader hit me with a seismic question: If you could travel back in time, what band would you want to see perform in its prime with its original lineup? Now, instead of saying the Beatles or Sly Stone or something critic-snobby like Big Star, I blurted, "Van Halen circa the 1984 album!" Reasons for this curious blurtation are myriad, but I imagine the main one is that I was a randy teen in 1984 and Dave, Eddie, Alex and Michael were the fun, bawdy embodiment of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll — a.k.a. the antithesis of my safe, corduroyed life.

ANYWAY, a few days after this reader question, I received a large box from Rhino Records. Call it serendipity, call it the rock gods doing me a solid, but I was supernaturally gifted with a parcel of remastered vinyl, beautiful re-creations of classic LPs. The Stooges' Fun House was in there, so was Curtis Mayfield's Super Fly soundtrack. But the best of the bunch were three Van Halen records, all of which Rhino released this week: VH II, Women and Children First (which comes with an original poster of a shirtless, shackled Diamond Dave) and, you guessed it, 1984. The latter doesn't have any bonus goodies, although the 180-gram vinyl and the iconic cover of that smoking cherub are treat enough. And of course there's the fun, below-the-belt rock. I'll stir it up and say the best track on 1984 isn't Hot for Teacher, Jump or Panama; it's Drop Dead Legs.

Bragging rights

Because ladies love a critic with hot prognosticating skills, let me say I was dead-on accurate with my predictions regarding the 2011 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When the nominees were announced in September, I said Neil Diamond was a lock (bingo), and that Tom Waits and Dr. John would sneak in (they did). I insisted it didn't look good for Bon Jovi (snubbed!). And I claimed the Beastie Boys and LL Cool J would come up short, too (sadness).

What surprised me, though, was the induction of Alice Cooper, the shock-metal progenitor. I didn't see that one coming, and with good reason. If Kiss (glam-metal pioneers) and Rush (prog-rock leaders) aren't in, then Cooper shouldn't be in, either. Sorry, but there are just too many glaring omissions in the HOF (Hall & Oates, Chicago and Duran Duran, too) for the Alice Coopers of the world to be getting in. And yet, at the March 14 ceremony in New York City, there's a very good chance strange bedfellows Cooper and Diamond will be playing onstage together in a final jam.

Baby, 'Christmas Lights' is a Coldplay surprise 12/17/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 17, 2010 5:32pm]

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