I turn the music up, I got my records on
From underneath the rubble sing a rebel song
Don’t want to see another generation drop
I’d rather be a comma than a full stop
— Every Tear Is A Waterfall, Coldplay
Coldplay are underrated. Wait! Come back. Let me explain. Still here? Good.
Somewhere along the line – more specifically, around the time of third album X&Y in 2005 – Coldplay became a byword for musical mediocrity. Fix You seemed to be the tipping point. Even now it’s a perennial favourite of unimaginative TV news show producers. There’s no avoiding it.
(One of my greatest fears is being caught up in some kind of natural disaster. To add insult to injuries, vision of my broken body being pulled from rubble somewhere will be accompanied on a show like The 7PM Project by Fix You.)
Eno, the former Roxy Music keyboardist and ambient music pioneer, now provides advice for poor stadium-filling bands who’re also looking to gain some critical credibility to sooth their troubles while counting mountains of cash.
Funny thing is, it generally works.
Coldplay’s last album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends benefitted enormously from Eno’s input. Chris Martin and company’s strong melodies were married to a little bit of experimentation. Not enough experimentation to scare off Coldplay’s more conservative fans, mind – it did go on to sell 6.8 million copies, after all – but certainly enough to give the band a much-needed change in direction.
Can fifth album Mylo Xyloto (pronounced “my-lo zy-letoe”, apparently) repeat the not so cheap trick of welding commercial success to a modicum of critical respect?
The album’s colourful graffiti-strewn artwork suggests this could be Coldplay’s Achtung Baby but it’s closer to being their Pop. Chris Martin pre-empted its release by declaring Coldplay now had to compete with the likes of Justin Bieber and Adele for listeners’ attention. Hence the poptastic recruitment of Rihanna under the Coldplay umbrella-ella-ella-a-a-a as a Mylo Xyloto contributor.
Opening, like Viva La Vida before it, with a short instrumental track that segues into second track and first song proper, Hurts Like Heaven which filches some of Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs album moves, Mylo Xyloto rushes to engage with prominent synth-laden pop hooks.
Paradise teases a new dance direction for Coldplay but still has one foot firmly planted in their usual ballad-laden territory. Fourth track Charlie Brown could have easily slipped onto any of Coldplay’s other albums and should provide a bit of solace for anyone not keen on the dance music malarkey.
Lead single Every Tear Is A Waterfall comes close to raving it up. Something Coldplay have never previously shown any interest in. The Rihanna collaboration, Princess Of China, borrows the sleek and shiny R&B production values that dominate global charts. It’ll be huge when it’s undoubtedly released as a single. Resistance is futile.
It’s only when Coldplay lose their experimental nerve and revert to type on Mylo Xyloto that they begin to lose their way. Slower mobile phones-aloft numbers like Us Against The World, U.F.O. and Up In Flames may provide a soothing balm for the masses who lap up this kind of stuff but do little to push the band’s sound forward. And the relentless lyrical posturing as rebel outsiders from such a massively successful band begins to grate a little.
But when Mylo Xyloto is good in its faster paced moments it’s very, very good.
Coldplay claim Mylo Xyloto‘s title is meaningless (giving haters a chance to snipe they mean nothing) but it’s hard to shake the feeling it could be an alternative band name during the album’s more leftfield expeditions. In those moments, consider it Mylo Xyloto’s debut album entitled Coldplay.
earworms: Hurts Like Heaven, Paradise, Princess Of China