Bad Cover Version’s Bad Cover Versions: Coldplay’s “Cover” of Depeche Mode’s Video
September 9, 2008
It was almost immediately after last week’s intro to Bad Cover Version’s Bad Cover Versions that I completely randomly asked myself, “What are Depeche Mode doing these days?” So, I toddled over to their website, where I saw that … wait… what?
Coldplay has done a “cover” of Depeche Mode’s video for “Enjoy the Silence.” You know, the one where Dave Gahan wears a big, long, furry king’s mantle and crown, and walks about the countryside looking windswept and pretentious? It’s supposed to be one of their videos that is “artsy,” directed by Anton Corbijn (who has photographed a lot of people, but perhaps none so iconically as Depeche Mode and U2).
Coldplay’s video is for “Viva La Vida,” one of their many songs suggestive of putting U2 in a blender with an orchestra and adding a little bit of the spirit–though not sound–of Dave Matthews. They’re just slimy enough that you know Chris Martin is doing it not because he believes Coldplay are good, but because he knows that they will appeal to an audience that is relatively underserved but has lots of cash: those upwardly mobile, middle-class kids who have yet to develop real taste but know that taste exists, and so they play it safe with milquetoast music.
Copying Depeche Mode’s video–or, more precisely, Anton Corbijn’s visual style–is a move from the same dance. Anton Corbijn’s photography is at once accessible and artistic, often featuring extraordinarily well known bands in very remote places. And, as we all know, landscapes are “artistic.”
His series of videos for Depeche Mode were oftentimes a little bit weird in plot, but by no means visually assaulting. Often filmed in grainy black and white, or alternately in bright, bleeding, oversaturated color, his videos for Depeche Mode often featured the band interacting with very sexy women (e.g. “Personal Jesus”).
In “Enjoy the Silence,” though, Corbijn made lead singer Dave Gahan the visual focus against the Swiss Alps, with shots of the whole band posing seductively randomly thrown in (Oh, and there were shots of that omnipresent Violator rose, too). Supposedly, the video’s storyline alludes to The Little Prince. But mostly it’s just a guy dressed as a king, walking around with a deck chair, who, according to Corbijn, was a man with everything in the world and just wanted a place to sit.
All of which brings me to Coldplay’s video. The title and lyrics of the song “Viva La Vida” lend themselves easily to the kingly theme. But, wait a minute: one thing that made the Depeche Mode video at least a little interesting was that it was completely random. Dave Gahan is a king, wandering around with a deck chair? OK, that’s kind of fun. But with Coldplay, we have things spelled out for us, because we’re stupid and middlebrow and not that clever (or so Chris Martin thinks of us).
Also, Coldplay’s video puts the king in the city, looking lonely, and in town models, looking large, instead of in the windswept mountains. Oh, and instead of carrying a chair, he’s got a painting. Lacking the interest of “What the hell is he doing out in the Swiss Alps with a lawn chair?”, the video is pretty lame. Also, if I were Corbijn, I’d also be up in arms about how poorly edited the whole thing is in comparison to the original. Corbijn, though, actually directed the video, making it somehow a bit of an in-joke that I just don’t get.
Anyway, here’s the Coldplay version:
And Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence”:
NOTE: “ROCK HISTORY, WHAT I LEAVE OUT” RETURNS TOMORROW! I just ran into a bit of a deadline here today in my real life.