Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Music Review: Coldplay - Viva la Vida

It does not matter that Coldplay is absolutely the shittiest fucking band I've ever heard in my entire fucking life, or that they sound like a mediocre photocopy of Travis (who sound like a mediocre photocopy of Radiohead), or that their greatest fucking artistic achievement is a video where their blandly attractive frontman walks on a beach on a cloudy fucking afternoon.

-Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

After Coldplay wrapped their tour for their last album X&Y, rumor was they were taking a break for a while. Now, I come from the world of Metallica and Tool, where time between albums is usually a five year wait, so I was surprised to see Coldplay back with this new release only two years later.

Despite some of the initial comments I made in my X&Y review, time allowed me to realize that Coldplay was becoming a bit bloated and were on the verge of becoming a parody of themselves. The high falsetto voice of Chris Martin, the soaring music, and the artistic snobbery that can come with being one of the biggest bands on the planet. Keeping your feet on the ground can be a challenge, and in successive albums since their sparkling debut, Coldplay was losing that battle.

If the time off served the lads any purpose it was a chance to take a step back from their whirlwind few years and reassess what they wanted to do musically. Their decision was compromise.

Coldplay will never come back with an album quite like Parachutes again, but with Viva and U2 Producer Brian Eno at the helm Coldplay has found a balance between the pop hits that have made them who they are and the subtle nuances that give them musical cred.

Just a note, the Klosterman quote at the beginning of the article made me laugh, then made me feel bad for liking Coldplay for about three seconds, but then I realized two things. First, while Klosterman's critique is partially true, he is slightly exaggerating his hatred for Coldplay to serve the larger purpose of his essay and what "Coldplay" represents, and second, even if he does truly have those feelings (circa 2000) he later goes on to reference The White Stripes and Jane's Addiction as "great." Eh, not so much, Chuck. Plus, as humorous as I may find him, he is a music snob. I can admit I like bands like Coldplay. Music is such a subjective medium that it seems almost impossible for an individual to purely like "cool" music. Anyway...

The songs on the album are more pulled back than some of the soaring epics on X&Y. For example, the album opens with a musical intro, and aside from the title track and the reprehensible "Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love" there are no blatantly pop-happy songs. That is not to say there are not great songs on this album. I think "Viva la Vida" is a very quality song. Other highlights are "Lost!" (not "Lost?") and "Yes."

Coldplay's new sound incorporates everything from harps, to mandolins, a horn section, surprisingly minimal drums, and those Spanish mariachi things.

Lyrically I found some of the lyrics to be trite. Lyrics about getting to heaven, crossing rivers, dead people living in heads are pretty run of the mill, but I'm willing to go along with it. After all, I was telling Coldplay to be a little less snobby.

This album definitely won't win you over the first time through, but it shouldn't push you away either. Their sort of lost marching band concept from their video "Violet Hill" is a good reference point for the aspect and mood for the album. In time, I think it will surely be viewed as a good album.

Worth the Purchase: 4/5
Compared to Prior Works: 3.5/5
Progression: 3/5
Sound: 4/5
Production: 4/5

Final Score: 3.7/5

*Note: New rating system is in place. All old ratings will need to be adjusted.

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