Let me state this first: Coldplay are one of my favourite bands from the last decade, alongside Keane and Linkin Park. And like Linkin Park, they began their rise to worldwide fame in 2000 – and like the American band, have sold in excess of 50 million albums – and just like them, Coldplay are popular on every continent on earth. The only thing that sets the two bands apart are their style of music — which couldn’t be more different.
But what has Coldplay become?
Back at the time of Parachutes, they were considered ‘indie’. Then that very album made them a ‘mainstream’ act, and they kept getting more and more popular with A Rush of Blood to the Head, and my personal favourite Coldplay album X & Y. The band hit their absolute peak* two years ago with Viva La Vida… or Death and All His Friends. Coldplay are now a bona fide stadium band. Epic songs with massive sing-a-long moments and grandeur productions with each new album.
But with Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay seems to have turned it down a notch. Well, at least that’s they promise.
1. “Mylo Xyloto” – The album kicks off with a mesmerizing 40-second xylophone instrumental
2. “Hurts Like Heaven” – A fun, fast paced track which reminded me a lot of U2’s early songs from the 1980s (like “Out of Control“). This song was on the set list for Coldplay’s recently concluded festival tour, and after hearing the studio version, I feel this song sounds so much better live. Not a huge fan of the vocal effects they added to some of the lines, but none the less, a great lively song to kick things off . – 4/5
3. “Paradise” – The second single they released before the album came out. At first listen, I wondered if Chris Martin’s friendship with Jay-Z was starting to influence the music because “Paradise” has traces of an urban influence. Keeping their stadium-status alive, Coldplay trains the listener so you know when to start clapping and which part to sing along to by the time you see the band play live. For a second single before the album even came out, my hopes were high — because I was reminded how “Viva La Vida” succeeded “Violet Hill”. “Paradise” just doesn’t seem to have ‘wow’-ed me like I hoped I would have. – 3.5/5
4. “Charlie Brown” – Of all the new songs Coldplay played on their festival tour, this was the one song that instantly won me over! Just like the opening guitar notes to “Strawberry Swing,” the guitar riff in Charlie Brown is an instant Coldplay classic. And just like “Strawberry Swing,” this song follows the ‘no real chorus’ formula as well. Definitely one of the best tracks on the album, and worthy of a single release sometime in Spring 2012. – 5/5
5. “Us Against the World” – Reminded me of the placing of “A Message” in X & Y. “Us Against the World” is a stripped down song lacking any drums, but not entirely acoustic in its music. Another song the band previewed live in the past few months, which by now, one should assume they chose the best tracks to promote the album. – 4/5
6. “M.M.I.X.” – A 53 second instrumental interlude
7. “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” – The first single to be released and despite the claims by Chris Martin that the new album would contain “new sounds,” this song convinced me otherwise. It sounds like a track that didn’t originally make the cut on their last album. Which is not to say it’s a bad song. An organ hook, thumping drums and builds up to an explosion of stadium sound that’s sure to get you jumping. I liked it, but it’s just another attempt at “Viva La Vida” — just not as memorable. – 3.5/5
8. “Major Minus” – We got an early listen to this song as it was featured on the “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” EP, released back in late June. Another killer song that sounds so much better live. Massive U2-influence on this song too, but now from another era of U2’s music. Great track none the less. – 4/5
9. “U.F.O.” – The only acoustic song on the album, and a rather short one too (2:19 minutes in length). Nothing special to say about it really. – 3.5/5
10. “Princess of China” – When I saw the “featuring Rihanna” part, I really did not know what to expect. Surely I wasn’t expecting one of the best songs on the album! After “Lovers in Japan,” here’s another mystical song which strays away from the norm for Coldplay. I’m not a Rihanna fan, but her vocals on this electro-pop track perfectly compliments Chris Martin’s voice. The “oh” chant and the “la la la-la” bits make you wonder if such fillers are now a mainstay of Coldplay songs. – 5/5
11. “Up In Flames” – Beats you normally you wouldn’t hear on a Coldplay album, this ballad sees Chris wail the title repeatedly in the chorus with minimal music. Probably the least challenging song for drummer Will Champion to play, given it never really goes anywhere. My pick for the weakest track on the album. – 2/5
12. “A Hopeful Transmission” – A 35 second prelude to…
13. “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” – … which just bursts into brilliance! I did get a bit of The Killers-vibe, but the second last song on the album is again, one of the best tracks in my opinion! Absolutely loved it on first listen, and I ignored the fact there was still one more song to go before I could conclude this review. Surely Coldplay can’t leave this track out on their set list for their forthcoming tour in support of Mylo Xyloto. – 5/5
14. “Up With The Birds” – Closing out Mylo Xyloto, Chris Martin sings the opening lines from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”, and for a while it’s just echoing vocals and organs. But like how “Death and All His Friends” closed out the last album, “Up With the Birds” does rise up towards the end, but never to the bombastic extent “Death and All His Friends” did. A fitting end to this slightly subdued album. – 3/5
U2’s influence on Coldplay is undeniable. Johny Buckland’s guitar work is a few-effects short of Bono’s. Choosing the “father of ambient music” Brian Eno to produce this album (he also worked on Viva La Vida) just confirms the admiration the England band have for the Irish legends. Eno’s the man behind Joshua Tree and six other U2 albums, but that collaboration created wildly different music in the 1990s and U2 still aren’t afraid to try out different sounds. Coldplay’s music on the other hand, sticks to a formula. That formula has produced consistent radio hits by the plentiful, but some will argue if Coldplay are less challenged to try anything else for a change.
As a fan of ambient music, I don’t mind Coldplay’s collaboration with Brian Eno. It has produced some great music so far and I hope the relationship continues.
I know it’s seriously uncool in certain circles to admit you are massive fan of Coldplay, but that disdain isn’t out of real hatred for the band’s music. It’s got more to do with the fact that any band or artist who receive a lot of radio airplay and are considered a mainstream act are automatically placed in the ‘uncool’ bucket.
But I’m no music elitist and have never cared about pretending to be one, despite the range of music I listen to. I have never stopped myself from listening to music just because of a thumbs down from critics — or in the case of Coldplay, being referred to as “shite”. What Coldplay’s success proves is that British pop isn’t dead. Along with the second coming of Take That, only a few chart-topping acts can still write great pop songs that are quintessentially British in their sound. In my opinion, their music topping the charts is far better than the X-Factor covers or shameless songs like JLS’ “She Makes Me Wanna” (which rips off Chris Brown’s “Yeah 3X,” which itself rips off UK-talent Calvin Harris). Don’t even get me started on British urban artists from UK’s boroughs acting as though they grew up in the ghettos of America.
Fine, so the latter are all examples corporate-driven music. But you can’t sell over 50 millions albums in an era when people hardly pay for music, or manage to stay relevant at a time when David Guetta spear-headed dance pop dominates the charts if you don’t get your act together and continue to write great songs time and time again — whether they be labelled ‘pop’ or ‘rock’. There’s none of the drama associated with Coldplay like there was with biggest British band that preceded them, Oasis. I worshiped Oasis in the 90’s — but even I got tired of the Gallaghers!
And that’s why I love Coldplay, and Keane, and yes, even Radiohead. Chances are I’m not the only one. I’m sure there are many Coldplay fans who also listen to Keane & Radiohead just as much. Of course, there also those who wouldn’t even mention the three bands in the same sentence — unless the sentence read “Radiohead is better than Coldpay and Keane!” Each to their own I say.
All-in-all, ‘Mylo Xyloto’ is still a good collection of music. It may not have great singles like the past four albums, which I feel will result in the album not selling comparatively gangbusters, but it’s still a worthy buy.
My final rating for ‘Mylo Xyloto’ – 4 out of 5 (Very Good)
*I placed this asterisk because I genuinely feel Viva La Vida is when Coldplay peaked. Every band has that one album which signifies they have made it to the top of the world. For Def Leppard, it was “Hysteria,” Metallica had the “Black” album, and for Coldplay, it’s Viva La Vida.
That is not to say Coldplay are going to fade away or call it quits (despite the rumours). With five stellar albums, Coldplay have enough singles to release a Greatest Hits collection, and then take a year or two off. Focus on family, take on other projects, a solo album perhaps. When they do come back, maybe they’ll say they’re trying to re-invent themselves and then end up working with Brian Eno again to produce the kind of music we expect to hear from Coldplay. Us fans won’t be disappointed, the band will still sell out stadiums and they continue to stay together as a group. As a fan, that’s all I really care about.
Coldplay can’t get any bigger than they already are. They have already earned themselves the title of being one of “England’s greatest bands” — ever.
P.S: If anybody at Coldplay’s management is reading this, please send the band to Bangalore, India for a concert! The only taste of Coldplay’s music we got was when a
goodgreat British tribute band called Coldplayer played here a few month ago.