I should preface this review by saying, yes, I am a Coldplay fan. I have been since I heard Clocks several years ago, and although you would assume I am running on the assumption that anything Coldplay does must be genius in some aspect, I can assure you I’m not. In fact, I was mildly disturbed when the band released “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” as the lead single for an album I had hoped would be darker and more reserved. It was synth-based, poppy, like “Viva la Vida” on acid, not to mention Chris Martin’s use of lyrics like “I turn the music up/I put my records on.” This wasn’t the Coldplay I knew and loved, and the second single “Paradise” didn’t help their case, either. Again, the band had broken out the synthesizers and pop sensibilities, and it didn’t sit all that well with me.
It wasn’t until the accompanying music video was released that it all began to make sense (for those who haven’t seen it, it features Chris Martin getting up to all sorts of mischief in London and Cape town while wearing an elephant suit). This blatantly goofy approach to what should be quite an important video to promote the album made me realize that it shouldn’t be taken as seriously as I had assumed it should. “Paradise” may be somewhat lyrically disjointed, maybe even slightly dumbed-down in terms of its musical complexity, but it began to grow on me, and now that the full album has been released I can assure you that it all makes sense.
“Hurts Like Heaven” commences proceedings with a big cheerful bang, and the fantastic “Charlie Brown” (my prediction for third single) picks up where Viva La Vida’s “Life in Technicolor” left off with it’s sitar-tinged riff soaring over a pulsing beat. Then, to my delight, the band offers us a trip back to A Rush Of Blood To The Head with the delightfully sinister “Major Minus.” Another big talking point is “Princess of China,” a collaboration with Rihanna which manages to be infectious without offending the pop-hater in all of us.
Perhaps the only part of the album I don’t particularly enjoy is the final few tracks. “Up In Flames” is an almost James Blake-esque adventure into minimalism, but it doesn’t quite translate. “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” makes a lot of noise but isn’t all that memorable, and the swelling closer, “Up With the Birds”, seems to hold itself back and leaves the listener hoping for a bit more of an energetic finish. That said, the first 8 tracks are enough of a roller coaster ride to keep you listening through.
So the sum of all this colour and energy is not what I expected (not even what I wanted, quite honestly), but it’s something good nonetheless. When you approach it as a pop album, Mylo Xyloto blows most current releases out of the water. It’s not a failed attempt at musical and lyrical genius as my view of the band suggested it might be, but a successful attempt at achieving beauty through artistic simplicity.