Album: Coldplay, Viva La Vida, or Death and All His Friends (Parlophone)
Friday 06 June 2008
Coldplay's X&Y, they've since explained, was the final part of a trilogy – a claim some might consider a cunning defence against accusations that they're a one-trick pony mining a stadium-filling formula to death. Whichever way one takes it, it leaves the globe-girdling anthem-mongers with quite a mountain to climb on Viva La Vida.
Click here to preview or buy Viva La Vida, Or Death And All His Friends
Their Sherpa Tensing on this tough ascent is Brian Eno, sonic enabler to the stars, doubtless drafted in for his success in keeping U2 more or less on their game, and famed for his idiosyncratic approach to the producer's job (on one occasion, he suggested Bono and his chums take a holiday). But it's hard to hear any specifically Eno-esque cast to the sound of Viva La Vida, save for the soaring synth pad behind the tack-piano march of "Lovers In Japan". And one suspects his hand may have been behind the oddly contradictory effect gained by layering tiny tendrils of backward guitar behind the Bo Diddley beat of "Strawberry Swing", which is the most notable thing about the track: certainly, whenever it slips into passages of strummed acoustic guitar, the song all but dissolves away to nothing.
The album opens in a shimmer of keyboards with "Life In Technicolor", building over two minutes of dulcimer and drums before giving way to "Cemeteries of London", a faux-folk piece built from wisps of U2-ish guitar and piano, whipped along by galloping drums. A similarly bustling clatter of dohl drums and offbeat handclaps powers "Lost!", though the uncharacteristic industry disguises what is a typical Coldplay lyrical trope ("Just because I'm losing doesn't mean I'm lost"). It's the first hint that, whatever their intentions, Coldplay will struggle to shake off their old ways; the second comes hot on its heels with "42", a multi-sectioned piece about death ("Those who are dead are not dead, they're just living in my head").
"Viva La Vida" itself likewise cleaves to a Coldplay staple, in this case that of devising a simple, memorable melody line and ramming it home through endless repetition. It adopts an oddly chipper tone for a song about a former leader fallen on hard times, but makes an apt pairing with the cantering battle fantasy "Violet Hill", yet another example, with "Cemeteries of London", "42" and "Death and All His Friends", of the album's fascination with death. The purported passing of their former style, however, has been greatly exaggerated, though whether the attempt here to chart a new musical course will lead anywhere as imposing remains to be heard. This is pretty average stuff.
Pick of the album: 'Strawberry Swing', '42', 'Lost!'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 Kim Kardashian on Bruce Jenner's 'story': 'We support him no matter what, and I think when the time is right, he'll talk'
- 3 Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures