The Poet vs The Rebel

The Poet vs The Rebel
Coldplay vs Pink Floyd
Inner vs Outer

That is a question that has been on my mind recently and more importantly since I had a discussion at work of whether Coldplay was a “great band”. This mostly driven by the upcoming Superbowl performance which by many standards some feel is overdue especially considering that most of the best work of they made was almost 10 years ago.

Now from pure statistics Coldplay is a great band and will go down in history as one of the greatest Alternative rock bands of the Era along with U2 for their style of high crescendo guitar riffs with changes to beats and experimental rhythms. Combined with Chris’ unique voice and falsetto they have their own following and particular style and sound. They regularly feature their work in the upper brackets charts wise and they sell very good overall and their concerts are always stacked.

So I was surprised when I heard this retort that they weren’t a “great band”. The person I was having the discussion with immediately pointed me to “Pink Floyd” as a rock band that is “great” so to speak. Now I very rarely listen to pink floyd so I had to do my research because growing up my parents were more accustomed to having me listen to Huey Lewis and the News. Now don’t get me wrong I’d know about Pink Floyd and I HAD heard their songs as I’m sure everyone has at some point. But I never gone out of my way to study them, listen to their music, and trying to look at them in depth.

This resulted in me over the past week listening to Pink Floyd quite a bit. Looking at their lyrics online as well as looking at particular thoughts that people have had on them as a band in total ranging over various online sources and social medias.  Are they overrated or underrated. Listening to their top hits and looking at the lyrics etc.

What formed were these thoughts and especially why both these bands are great … but in their own respects and coming from totally different perspectives on life and more importantly for each other.

To put it simply the conclusion that I came to was that Coldplay was more introspective while Pink Floyd was more externally motivated or looking at the outside of things.

It was like the innards of Inception to the vastness of space with Interstellar. They’re both similar in many ways and in how they are approached. The outcomes and end points and start points are widely different.

And they are both incredible by many standards because of this as they are almost two sides of the same coin yet the undeniable separation remains.

An example of this is how Coldplay often dives into the introspective on life. They talk about breaking up and they talk about how it feels in an intricate manner to be in love with someone. In the case of Viva La Vida its going from gaining power to losing it and how it all really doesn’t matter in the end because you’ve missed what was important. The Scientist deals with a man lover realizing that he’s choked out his love with his trenchant usage for logic in everything when there are many things that cannot be quantified such as love, relationships, and deep meaning.

They don’t evoke a man on the corner making a call to action but rather a man in a field writing poetry about something he loves from the deep recesses of his heart.

They’re poets through and through and this is none more evident than in the way they’re music goes along. It’s rhythmic, the lyrics rhyme well, and more importantly they’re dive into heavy self criticism within they’re songs that feels genuine such as with they’re song Trouble.


For example here’s some of my favorite lines from them…

“You put me on a line
And hung me out to dry
And darling that’s when I
Decided to go to see you

You cut me down to size
And opened up my eyes
Made me realize
What I could not see

And I could write a book
The one they’ll say that shook
The world, and then it took
It took it back from me”

Here’s some more of they’re songs in case you are interested.

Viva la Vida

Fix You

The Scientist

They focus on the problems within versus the problems that are external to them. It’s the classic case of someone who tends to judge themselves the hardest. Rarely do they ever make externalized songs in the sense of change or problems and usually it’s subtle or a “run away” song.
In fact out of all of their songs there is only a direct example of this with the song Violet Hill.

Violet Hill

The outcome of this is that Coldplay develops itself into a band which is almost Neo-Romanticism. It’s abstract internal but more importantly relational and self-critical.

Now lets compare this with Pink Floyd. Growing out of the 1960’s with the social upheavals that were happening one could easily make the case that some of that eventually manifest itself into Pink Floyd and the music they produced which was genre breaking at the time. Indeed they’re sounds are incredibly distinct but even more so they dive into very deep issues externally speaking. For example being numb to the world outside, or feeling as though you are just another “brick in the wall”. Money, which is probably one of the most well known songs that they ever produced and continues in various forms, uses a cash register for one of it’s beats and talks into how money ruins and kills things and consumes life. Even a song that is relational in natures with Wish You Were Here talks about the relationship in regards to the surrounding societal and political landscape.

They are charged politically in every sense of the word and they approach from the external like a Rebel with banners in hand. Like many of those who rose up in the 1960’s to fight for their particular interests so does Pink Floyd but in a more direct, physical, and external manner.

They are the Vox Populi the champion of ideas unheard and ideals that are oppressed by modern society.

Here are some examples

Another Brick in the Wall


Wish You Were Here

Interestingly enough the songs that I think are some of the best from either Band are those that are more introspective than extrospective. In Pink Floyd I personally think that this is one of their best songs.

Comfortably Numb

So in the end we have to diametrically opposed positions trying to solve problems that are pitted against humanity at its heart. Inside versus Outside so to speak with these two bands and that was when I realized something … this could apply to numerous things within humanity and it’s problem.

On one spectrum you have those who view problems as being internal (Classical Liberalist or Conservative) who views problems as being of those of issue of enforcement and that human nature is naturally evil. Meanwhile on the flip side there is the side that believe society is the cause of problems and a perfection of said society will perfect people (modern liberalism and progressive). One says fix the parts while the other says fix the machine’s designs. Bottom Up or Top Down. A very interesting discussion indeed.

And this divergence goes down to the core of both bands. Just take the artwork used for both band’s album covers.

Pink Floyd regularly uses realistic places items and physical external pieces to make it’s album covers. One of it’s most famous covers features a man who is actually physically on fire shaking the hands. Not only is this incredible to have done but the image is evocative and direct. The usage of the light hitting the prism for the “Dark Side of the Moon” album details how they wish to make known and break down light into understandable pieces and to reveal the problems so to speak. Absolutely impressive work overall.

Meanwhile, Coldplay’s covers feature abstract images, signs, and numerous other semiotics at its disposal to tell it’s own stories. They feature artwork more often than physical places. Everything from angel wings to graffiti walls to even in renaissance paintings with logos over top (again diving into that Neo-Romanticism). Or my favorite the images from Rush of Blood to the Head which features a polygonal head seemingly whisking away in the wind of the digital space.

Again external and physical versus internal and abstract.

Even down to the usage of orchestras and accompanying instruments is in this manner. Coldplay used for example angelic and heavenly sounding sounds you might hear at a church for the opening to Always in my Head. Pink Floyd meanwhile as mentioned earlier used a cash register for it’s opening of Money.

Part of me wonders where others stand on this issue.

The head in me appreciates Pink Floyd ….

But the poet in me cries out for Coldplay.