NEW YORK — "In My Place" is more than just the first single from Coldplay's upcoming A Rush of Blood to the Head — it's the reason the band is still around.
"It's the song that kept us together when we were having a wobbly patch about 18 months ago," frontman Chris Martin said recently before taking the stage for an intimate club show. "That was the one thing on the horizon that we thought, 'We must stay together for that.' And we did, and that's why we're still here."
The "wobbly patch" Martins referred to is a euphemism for the turmoil and frustration the bandmembers experienced following their first album, Parachutes, featuring the hit "Yellow." Although they started out as four University College London classmates making music for kicks, after their debut came out they were catapulted to international success, and their lazy, feather-light melodies were being credited with reinvigorating a stale English music scene.
"We were suddenly taken aback by everything, and we didn't know whether we were coming or going," Martin said. "But when we wrote 'In My Place' it was nice to know that we had at least one more album in us."
"In My Place" opens with a single crash cymbal followed by two bars of 4/4 drumming, then a plaintive three-note guitar line rings through a strummy, celestial rhythm. Martin's lonely, aching vocals drift across the sonic landscape like steam escaping a metal pipe: "In my place, In my place/ The lines I couldn't change/ I was lost, oh, yeah."
It's unsurprising that Martin, who has developed a reputation for being guarded and somewhat aloof, offers few revelations about the lyrical significance of the track.
"Honestly, I've got no idea what the song is about," he insisted. "Like all our good songs, it comes from somewhere that I just don't understand. It kind of knocks on the door and comes in and sits down before you have time to let it explain itself."
A performance video for "In My Place" directed by Sophie Muller (Sparta, No Doubt) offers no more insight into Martin's psyche. The clip features the band playing in a huge, nearly empty room and offers little detail, color or action.
"The last video we had done had some weird animation shots," drummer Will Champion said. "And the one that people remember is 'Yellow,' which was just Chris, and I think we wanted to have a good performance video where we were all in it to try to jerk people's memories of us."
"It's like a new passport photo for us," added Martin. "It's not 'The Matrix,' but it was something we needed to do."
A Rush of Blood to the Head hits stores August 27.