Album Review

Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends - Coldplay

When it was announced that Coldplay's fourth LP was going to be named after a Ricky Martin single, there was reason to be concerned. All fears melt away after hearing the title track and it's then you realize that giving the album the most un-Coldplay sounding name isn't a bad thing. At such a crucial time in their career, Chris Martin and the gang could either make X&Y II (or A Rush Of Blood To The Head III) and risk becoming irrelevent, or evolve.

Coldplay hooked up with legendary U2 producer Brian Eno. Martin related a conversation they had with him in his recent Rolling Stone interview. "He goes 'Your songs are too long. And you're too repetitive, and you use the same tricks too much, and big things aren't necessarily good things, and you use the same sounds too much, and your lyrics are not good enough.'...You can either sit 'round, look at your platinum discs and say, 'F*** you, you're all wrong', or you can go 'OK, he's probably got a point'...within 20 minutes, we'd forgotten about any previous record sales."

Ironically enough, by forgetting previous record sales, Coldplay has paved the way for even bigger sales. Viva La Vida has topped the charts in 32 countries, sold over 300,000 copies on its release day in the US alone, and "Viva La Vida" the song topped the singles charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Coldplay rules the world right now.

The album opens up with the lyric-less "Life In Technicolor", a kalidascope of sound that compliments the sleeve's paint splattered artwork. "Lost!", recorded in a church, offers an organ and the album's most poetic lyric, "Just because I'm loosing doesn't mean I'm lost". "Viva La Vida" is the area-ready anthem that despite topping charts world-wide is about a "king" thinking longingly on former glories, a time he used to rule the world, all the while sweeping the streets he used to own. The religious references, church bells, and choir of gentle 'oohs' sprinkled throughout the song raise it to the level of a rock hymn. Compare this with the folk sounds of "Strawberry Swing" or the Arabic tinged "Yes".

Where Viva falls short is it's desparate attempts to be political. "Violet Hill" describes how "Priest clutched onto Bibles hollowed out to fit their rifles" and takes a swipe at FOX news and how the "fox became a God" yet most references are so vague as to mean both anything and nothing at all. The music industry is a democracy, not a dictatorship, so to take their seat at the head of 21st century rock royalty, Coldplay has to be popular and making pointed religious or political remarks might piss a few people off. As soon as "Death And All His Friends" begins to swell higher and higher and Martin proclaims, "I don't want to follow all of his friends", all is forgiven. They are the biggest band in the world for a reason. Pop enough to attract the masses and indie enough to not sound like pop, Coldplay won't be sweeping the streets, or playing at casinos and states fairs anytime soon.


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