Viva la Vida was a fantastic album. There, I said it. Chide me, condemn me -- tell me I know nothing about music -- but I will happily defend Coldplay’s fourth LP to the grave. It was a perfectly timed reaction to the stale image that has haunted the band for so long -- a statement that they were more than the trite post-Britpop wannabes whose fan base consisted of music mums and Q readers; Coldplay could ‘do edgy’ and they did well to prove it. Yet with Mylo Xyloto, the group’s fifth studio album, this passion to redefine their own game has seemingly dissipated – Coldplay have made their point and now it’s back to business as usual.
Of course, that’s not to say the album doesn’t explore some new territory: Mylo Xyloto is replete with electro-pop influences that unfurl from the first track, Hurts Like Heaven, a jaunty number that could easily go down as Coldplay’s first ‘dance’ number. As the album slips into Paradise, with its swirling strings and grandiose chorus, these larger sonic textures are laid on thick, while Every Tear is a Waterfall, the clomp-stomping, Eric Prydz-channelling first single feels like something that wouldn’t be out of place on a Black Eyed Peas album. In fact, there are many moments where Mylo Xyloto, with its coruscating synths and chart pop vibe, feels like a record made for the pulsing dance floor of some sprawling Ibiza nightclub.
The track surest to divide fans due to its mainstream appeal, however, is Princess of China -- an anthemic and, admittedly, catchy synth-heavy ballad that sees Chris Martin duet with Rihanna in one of the stand-out moments of the album.
Granted, there are occasions where things are a little more stripped back (Up in Flames is fondly reminiscent of the more understated parts of Parachutes) but these moments are fleeting, and Chris Martin’s vocals, slipping into the usual “oooos”, “whoaaas” and painfully forced rhymes we’ve come to know, are once again drowned out by the noisy over-production. Even when the music dares to flex itself, occasionally veering down grunge (Major Minus) and post-punk-y avenues, things soon fall back on old habits -- Coldplay are still afraid of making the leap from being big to being brilliant.
At the end of the day, Mylo Xyloto won’t win the band any new fans; it’s another album made for swelling stadiums, bombastic light shows and thousand-fan sing-alongs – but that’s who Coldplay always have been and they deserve some credit for believing in their own brand. It shouldn’t be cool to hate a band for ‘going mainstream’ if the music hasn’t suffered in turn. It’s just a shame that this time for Coldplay, it has.
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Mylo Xyloto Album Sampler