Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008)

4.0 ★/8.0 - 8.9

...or "Brian Eno Snatches up Coldplay from the jaws of arena mediocrity." Yes folks, after 7 years of pounding their cheap streamlined versions of U2 and Radiohead into the ground, Coldplay finally decides to make some artistic growth! Well...sort of. They're still basically easier-to-listen-to versions of U2 and Radiohead, but in and of itself, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. What matters is whether or not they deliver the pop goods and on Viva La Vida, they introduce enough new elements to recapture the guilty pleasure that was Parachutes, the biggest of which is Brian Eno's signature stamp of sound manipulation. His influence is apparent in every aspect of the album's making, whether you're looking at the heightened density of atmosphere, the wider variety of songs (something X&Y had virtually none of), or the new and interesting song structures ("42" moves from genuinely haunting to uncomfortably vicious and feral with stunning ease, and the middle section of the album from "Lovers in Japan" to "Chinese Sleep Chant" moves like a series of melodic sketches). Most important though, is the way that, for once, The piano or guitar isn't used as the main songwriting origin. "Lost" is primarily a triumph of production over substance, but the hand claps, gospel organs and hoove-clopping rhythm form a melodic tapestry of sound that is irresistible enough to overcome the simplicity of the song itself. This is typical Brian Eno behavior at work, where songs are based on sounds alone, as with the tripped out guitars on "Strawberry Swing" or the walls of piano on "Lover in Japan". In conjunction with the deal-breaking fact that Chris Martin's lyrics actually manage to resist obvious, gooey cliches, Viva La Vida prevails as a worthy spiritual successor to The Joshua Tree.

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