Ambitious Creativity in Mylo Xyloto
- Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Title: Mylo Xyloto
Let's acknowledge Coldplay is a decent rock band, one that has drummed up enough signature songs and ambitious creativity over four albums to merit many comparisons to U2 and R.E.M.
And like those acts, Chris Martin and company have risen from clubs to stadiums, made their political and fashion statements, and gained loyal fans as well as fierce dissenters—the latter point especially defined by the extreme reactions to Mylo Xyloto, the quartet's fifth studio set.
For the enthusiasts, Mylo Xyloto plays like a natural continuation of what started with 2008's Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall" is "Viva la Vida" hitting the clubs after hearing "Where the Streets Have No Name" on the ride downtown.
With plinking piano and Asian accents, "Charlie Brown"—perhaps taking its title from the lyric about having "a cartoon heart"—is comparable to Viva's "Life in Technicolor" but stronger all around.
Naysayers are balking at Mylo Xyloto as a concept album; the hard-to-pronounce title comes from the names of two imagined young lovers who meet on the mean streets, which explains Coldplay's wardrobe change from Viva's French Revolution garb to a graffiti artist motif.
But this us-against-the-world premise doesn't seem to resonate quite as winningly as in Rent or Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, and thus comes across pompous to the haters. Fair enough.
More refreshing for everyone is the record's experimentation with indie rock meeting urban influences, a bold move that works well. Contagious opener "Hurts like Heaven" takes the first step, frenetically running back and forth between post-punk and techno pop. "Paradise" whips strings, Martin's keys, and a throbbing rhythm into Top 40 radio readiness. A duet with Rihanna, "Princess of China," feels engagingly dark and European. "Up in Flames" hints at R&B balladry.
Anyone who just wishes Coldplay would sound like it did in 2002 will appreciate "Major Minus," a rattling rocker which leaves no doubt about the early-to-mid era U2 influence.
The acoustic tracks, "Us Against the World" and "UFO," have a spiritual essence to them as well, respectively mentioning the Bible's Daniel and directly talking to the Lord.
Ultimately, Mylo Xyloto delivers a handful of cool singles—you need to hear "Heaven," "China," "Waterfall," "Charlie Brown," and "Paradise"—and takes artistic chances instead of completely playing things safe. All the ideas may not perfectly congeal, but it's well worth a spin.
*This article first published 11/2/2011
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