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Music Review: Coldplay: “Mylo Xyloto”

Posted on the 26 October 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

To me, it’s hard to believe that “Mylo Xyloto” is British band Coldplay’s fifth studio album. I’ve been a fan of theirs ever since they burst onto the scene in 2000 with “Parachutes,” their first album. Though I had no idea who they were until my cousin introduced me to the album and “Yellow” in college ten years ago. It’s even more amazing to me because I lived through the increasing rumors in 2001 and 2002 that “Parachutes” and the follow-up “A Rush of Blood to The Head” were going to be the only albums the band was ever going to make. Heck, lead singer Chris Martin said he was burnt out after the success of “Parachutes” and wondered if that was it for the band’s music. It was a struggle to get the second smash album out and the rest is history now.

Music Review: Coldplay: “Mylo Xyloto”

Coldplay is now one of the biggest bands in the world and continues to pound out what I think is still really great music. They may have their detractors (and they are legion), but I’ve always been a fan, as evidenced by the fact that I have every one of their albums, including two of the live recordings (the last of which I got for free while attending a concert in Chula Vista, CA in 2009) and tracks from the B-side alternate album, “Prospekts March” that was released in 2008 along with their last album “Viva La Vida or Death and All of His Friends.”

Anyway, listening to this new album, I’ve come to the realization that Coldplay may be finished in making any form of sound progression. They tried their experimental phase with the third album “X & Y” and that was only met with backlash and the criticism that it sounded too similar to “A Rush of Blood to The Head.” They hired uber-producer Brian Eno for “Viva La Vida…” and the band returned to the sound and sweet guitar and piano hooks that made them famous in the first place. “Mylo Xyloto” is the continuation of that sound.

If anything, “Viva La Vida…” was a nice, balanced mix of the experimental and intimate with the sweeping epic, anthemic sound that sells albums. “Mylo Xyloto” expands on that, and the result is a bit more unbalanced than “Viva La Vida.” There’s room even for the strange, as evidenced by diving into the electronica-sounding “Princess of China,” which just doesn’t normally sound like the band. The song also puts its roots into an almost urban, hip-hop-like arena, enhanced by the presence of Rihanna as a guest soloist on the track. “Princess of China” is still an enjoyable song to me (much to my surprise because it’s an experiment the band often fails), but that and “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” are tracks that sound so different from what the band normally does that it sounds like it belongs on a completely different album altogether.

This album has an interesting three-act structure, buoyed by less-than-a-minute-long interludes that begin the album (“Mylo Xyloto”), arrive at the middle (“M.M.I.X”), and near the end (“A Hopeful Transmission”). The interludes flow smoothly into the tracks that immediately follow them, making a single listen to the album without any real discernable breaks.

It’s certainly not like how either “A Rush of Blood to The Head” opens (the pounding riffs of “Politik”) or even the slow build of “X & Y” with “Square One” with its march towards an explosion, but it’s still effective. The pace however is a bit scattered, especially when it runs into the slower songs like the ballad “Us Against The World” (in my opinion, the worst track of the lot) and caps off the album in a strange way with yet another ballad in “Up With The Birds.” The band used to do great, majestic, epic ballads (“The Scientist” and “Fix You” come to mind), but they are clear misses on this record.

The first about 60% of the album (up until “Major Minus”) has been played regularly either on the radio as singles (“Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”; “Paradise”) or on the new concert leg prior to the album’s release. As a result, I’ve already heard all of those songs before. It plays like the usual big, poppy, good-natured tracks that gain Coldplay fans as well as haters. “Charlie Brown” is still a personal favorite of mine, though the album version plays in a cleaner, much more sterile way than the concert version. The guitar hook is still amazing (guaranteed to be stuck in my head for days on end), but the sounds around the hook are a little off. “Hurts Like Heaven” hasn’t really worked in any of the concert settings I’ve seen, but here on the album, it sounds much crisper and propulsive than the other tracks on the album.

“Paradise” and “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” have great hooks, but I understand why the band would put those out as singles first. They are the band’s signature sound and I don’t think they’d risk putting out some of the more experimental material (I certainly don’t expect “Princess of China” to be a released single, for example) for fear of alienating its fanbase. The last album was full of darker, more contemplative songs so it makes sense that this would be the more sunny, happier response.

Whether you like that about the band is up to you. I enjoy it, and think it’s the band enjoying themselves after taking themselves and their stardom so seriously for a decade. Maybe they’ve loosened up and let things come to them. That’s so much better than when they started and had no idea what to do with any of those issues that plague arena rock bands.

Golden tracks: “Hurts Like Heaven”; “Paradise”; “Charlie Brown”; “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”; “Mylo Xyloto”

Silver tracks: “Princess of China”; “Major Minus”; “Up in Flames”; “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart”; “A Hopeful Transmission”; “M.M.I.X.”

Bronze tracks: “Up With The Birds”; “U.F.O”; “Us Against The World”

Grade: 8/10

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