Coldplay formed on January 16th 1998, when they lost a demotape competition on XFM in London. Their type of music is very heavy soft rock.
And there it was. For twelve ninety-nine, Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends”, sitting there on the shelf. Now, I’ve been in this situation before. Having been a big fan of their first two albums, I was wary of “X & Y”. Having heard the allegations that they had been “Borrowing” from bands like U2 and Radiohead, I started to believe the negative hype machine that had been brewing. Much to my chagrin “X & Y” succeeded in making Coldplay both the biggest and the most mocked band in the world.
Having sold more than thirty million albums and given countless interviews, their seemingly unstoppable train of pop rock seemed to begin to slow. Front man Chris Martin sings in a creaky falsetto while they play shoe gazing piano rock. The album was commercially successful but poor reviews and negative reactions were overwhelming. It played almost like a tribute album to U2, with a few too many soaring guitar riffs and sparse piano, the effect of which was lost on me.
But could a new Brian Eno produced record recapture the early success of Coldplay? I took the risk, and proceeded to listen to the album for the next few days. Gone is the procession of Martin dominating songs, without the band’s presence. Instead, the album plays much more on the strength of the rest of the band. The opening track “Life in Technicolor” is a soaring, foot tapping call to arms. “42” starts out as a traditional soul searching piano ballad, and is quickly turned on its head halfway through the song, as if they are almost saying “gotcha!” and having fun with themselves. Led by Johnny Buckland’s cascading guitar riffs, the band takes the reins from Martin and turns it into a catchy rock song. The premier track, though, is the title track “Viva la Vida”. A chorus of violins and an uplifting beat mix well with Martin’s self depreciating lyrics. Opening with “I used to rule the world/seas would rise when I gave the word/Now in the morning I sleep alone/sweep the streets I used to own”, Martin’s normally syrupy self-loathing is actually quite poignant.
Although it is enjoyable, the album isn’t devoid of any misfires. “Lost” showcases Martin’s poor lyric writing skills. He seems to always take the easy way out, with lyrics like “Just because I’m losing/doesn’t mean I’m lost”. But even that seems to be acceptable due to a percussion driven beat that makes the lyrics seem unimportant. The album is surprisingly good.
So along with the millions of others who bought the new Coldplay album, I have actually enjoyed saying that I am a Coldplay fan. Granted it doesn’t do wonders for my indie cred, but one must give credit where credit is due. Not bad at all.
Review by Pat Moran