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Do you remember that terrifying scene at the end of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers when the nice, sweet girl goes up to Donald Sutherland, thinking he's still a trustworthy human, and he lets out a terrible, blood- curdling shriek which proves that - oh horror! - he too has had his body invaded by the vile, plant-like aliens?
Well, I think my wife went through a very similar experience in the car this week when I tried inflicting on her the new Coldplay album Viva La Vida.
'Oh come on. Don't be so prejudiced. It really isn't that bad,' I said. 'Yes it is bad! It's worse than bad. It's evil!' she said.
'Well, I'm sorry, but as a rock critic I'm paid to have an open mind and, actually, I think the title track's quite catchy,' I said.
It was then, glancing briefly across, that I caught the dawning horror in her eyes. The horror of a woman finally realising that her husband has lost the last vestiges of his sanity.
My wife was quite right, of course, as she usually is. Coldplay really are one of the very worst things to have happened to popular music in at least a decade.
But as I was reminded on that car journey, the real problem with Coldplay is not that their music is horrendously bad. Rather, it's that it's not quite bad enough to put off millions and millions of otherwise nice, sane, God-fearing folk from hurrying to the shops to buy it.
This is what makes Coldplay so insidiously dangerous.
They take all the most easily likeable bits from some of your favourite bands - the shimmery guitars and floating-in-space atmospherics of Pink Floyd, the soaring falsetto of Radiohead's Thom Yorke, the epic, anthem quality of U2 in their pomp - to create a sound exactly like the one you'd get if you programmed a super-computer to create 'pop/rock music most likely to fill stadia, sell records and alienate no one'.
As bad, if not worse, is the effect they've had on music, generally. Coldplay are almost certainly responsible for the emergence of a whole generation of anaemic simperers, with cracked, husky, oh-love-me-please-I'm-so-shy-and-sensitive voices, and slushy ballads - among the worst offenders being James Blunt.
The girls may like it, but it has about as much to do with the testosterone-fuelled spirit of rock 'n' roll rebellion as a bowl of organic tofu.
And if you think Coldplay's music is bland and generic, you should try listening to their lyrics. 'The future's for discovering/ The space in which we're travelling,' goes one typically profound couplet from their biggest selling (10 million) album to date, X&Y.
'What? You mean the future's not, as I'd always thought before, for finding out what happened yesterday?' you might teasingly ask.
But you never do, obviously, because that's not the point of Coldplay lyrics.
Their purpose is not to give new insights into the meaning of life or the secrets of the universe or even what it's like being a millionaire English rock star (Chris Martin) married to a Hollywood actress (Gwyneth Paltrow) with a daughter bafflingly named after the world's dullest fruit (Apple).
Rather, they're designed to generate exactly the right, crowd-pleasing blend of postmillennial angst, fake profundity, and touchy-feely, self-help manual positivity.
As to what his English teachers at his old public school, Sherborne, make of lines like 'You and me are floating on a tidal wave together/ You and me are drifting into outer space', I can only speculate. But I suspect they might well take issue with the hackneyed nature of the imagery (he'll be rhyming 'Moon' with 'June' next - always supposing he hasn't done so already).
If there's one thing Coldplay fans are most definitely not, it's critically discerning. Coldplay are for people who don't mind a bit of rock music, so long as it's had every last scrap of adventurousness, edginess, obscurity or difficulty - (all the things, in fact, that get real music lovers excited) - surgically removed.
The most obvious similarity is with Radiohead.
Coldplay formed in 1997, just when Radiohead were starting to become that rare thing - a band which is both critically admired and commercially enormous, and they've always had much in common. There's the fact that both went to public school, that they have lead singers who will insist on lecturing us ad nauseam on PC causes such as fair trade and global warming, and that musically they're very nearly like peas in a pod.
There's one crucial difference though. However catchy Radiohead's melodies, however honeyed the soaring vocals, you're never quite allowed to forget that this is chewy, intellectual, art-house rock which could off at a weird tangent any second. Coldplay never quite dare do that.
Resolutely mid-tempo and medium volume, their music's main purpose is not to frighten the horses. You can play it in your car, you can play it as background music at dinner parties, you could play it at a wedding or a funeral and nobody would much mind.
When record industry executives talk about bands who 'shift units' - as opposed to ' selling albums' - Coldplay (30million album sales, and counting) are their dream model.
In 2005, when it was announced that Coldplay X&Y was not, as previously expected, to be released in that fiscal year, the share price of their parent company EMI dropped by 15 per cent.
Little wonder that the record company's new boss, Guy Hands, described Viva La Vida 'the most anticipated album of the year'. By accountants, certainly, if not the critics.
If Coldplay were a virus, they wouldn't be Ebola - the feared tropical disease that boils your insides, but kills its hosts far too rapidly to cause a pandemic.
They'd be more like the common cold - absolutely everywhere and annoying when you catch it, but not quite so life threatening that you feel too ill or too embarrassed to stop spreading it round the rest of the office.
In other words, Coldplay aren't a threat to the very fabric of civilisation - just a ubiquitous pain with which we shall, I fear, have to learn to live for many years to come.