Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
Coldplay has written a concept album about your life. Granted, you probably weren't involved in a Nazi resistance movement in Germany in the 1940s, which Chris Martin and company use as a backdrop for the concept on Coldplay’s new album, Mylo Xyloto. However, the story and the songs are easily adaptable—sort of a one-size-fits-all album for anyone who has ever done anything righteously rebellious or been in love.
Essentially, it’s a love story that follows a couple through tribulation and then lands at a happy ending. It’s a generic concept, really. But it's the reason Coldplay is the biggest band in the world (move over, U2), because they can connect with anyone, anywhere, at just about any stage of life. And now on Mylo Xyloto, that's truer than ever.
The band has taken their fifth album to inch the spectrum further into the mainstream, as they’ve done with almost every album that preceded it. Had Mylo Xyloto earned its release a decade ago, it would be lauded for its genius in both production and style, but the rapid growth in the band’s popularity since their debut has overshadowed their artistic progress or lack thereof.
See, there was a time when Coldplay wasn’t the biggest act in the world. It was brief and exclusive to know about this brilliant band from Britain and their subtle and beautiful debut. Both 2000’s debut Parachutes and 2002’s A Rush of Blood to the Head were each received as left-of-center efforts, but, thanks to their popularity, became mainstream hits. Many bands quickly modeled their styles after the acoustic rock of Parachutes, leaving the sound boring and over-saturated. But Coldplay’s biggest weapon is their ability to evolve.
The band has since taken a more grandiose approach. Their biggest pivot point was 2008’s Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, thanks largely to the production and composition help of Brian Eno. And now on Mylo Xyloto, Eno is back at the helm again and the band has hit a full stride, this time incorporating more of a pop element to the music than ever before.
When reports surfaced that Rihanna would be making a cameo on the album (“Princess of China”), it prompted confusion from many Coldplay fans hanging on to the last few shreds of indie-rock credibility the band gave them. Same goes for the electronic, almost One Republic-y, beat upon which the album’s second single, “Paradise,” is built. But in the scope of the entire album, these shocking revelations make perfect sense, because Coldplay still manages to sound like Coldplay.
The production is still crisp, clear and lush, as one would expect from Eno, the master of soundscapes, and there are still plenty of guitarist Jonny Buckland’s chimy, single-note guitar hooks. But the album incorporates more electronic elements in the mix than any Coldplay album before it. The result is a majestic record with elements of new wave, pop and a few acoustic numbers thrown in for more nostalgic fans.
But the most common feeling given off by the album is that of triumph. Clever, bordering-on-cheesy lyrics such as, You use your heart as a weapon / And it hurts like heaven sung to the melody of an undeniable hook engage the listener almost immediately on “Hurts Like Heaven.” The disjointed rhythm of “Charlie Brown” keeps a grand, well-orchestrated riff stuck in your head for days. Same goes for the hook on the album’s first single, “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall,” which actuates an inner party, particularly when drummer Will Champion kicks in with an African rhythm during the song’s final chorus.
Mylo Xyloto isn’t all upbeat, though. “Paradise” tells the tragic story of a girl who escapes her hopeless life only when she’s dreaming. The band employs Rihanna for a verse on the album’s breakup song, “Princess of China,” where she sings, I could’ve been a princess, you’d be a king / Could’ve had a castle and wore a ring.
But, as it draws to a close, the album ends happily, as it should, on the restful “Up With the Birds.” After all, it’s to be expected on this massive pop record that sees the band aiming to reach more ears than ever before. On Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay are drawing out the nets and hoping for the biggest catch of their careers, and from the sound of it, they shouldn’t have a problem.
Daniel Hopkins (@dshopkins) is a music critic at www.DallasObserver.com.