Coldplay, Vida La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
Coldplay is a band that listeners either love or hate — there’s rarely any middle ground. Thankfully, Viva La Vida… — with obvious help from über-producer Brian Eno — is enough of a departure for the band that it shows they still care about growing their music more than selling albums. Instead of sticking rigidly to the mostly piano-based formula they tend to fall back on in times of creative drought (as on X&Y), Chris Martin and company employ a more experimental feel in their latest songs.
Sure, there’s still plenty of piano, but the band tends to use it more to enhance their songs rather than as to form the basis of them. “Viva La Vida” incorporates heavy strings and keyboards, which makes it an odd choice for a single — but it is one of the album’s catchiest songs — and lead single “Violet Hill” finds the band tackling heavier riffs than in the past (it only slightly smacks of trying too hard). The excellent “42” starts off slowly with Martin’s warbling vocals and softly played piano and morphs into an electronic-tinged masterpiece like nothing the band has tried before; Eno’s ability to push the band past their comfort zone obviously works in spots.
As expected, Martin still mostly writes sappy, heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics and unfortunately also dabbles in religion and politics — again, the requisite moody, piano-based songs — that could easily venture into overly trite territory if you didn’t get the impression he’s actually sincere. While there’s nothing on Viva La Vida… to convert long-time haters (overexposed bands will always have them), Coldplay should be proud of the fact they’ve expanded their sound on their own terms. Those that insist they’ve sold out should give Parachutes another listen.