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excellent by Adam Downer STAFF (77 Reviews)


2008-06-09 | 56 comments | 26950 views

Other Reviews: David Young * (4.5), Attention Whore (4.5), Blair * (4),


Summary: Well. This is a surprise.


Give Coldplay credit for their guts. After the so-inoffensive-it-hurt X&Y, Coldplay could have taken the safe route and continued to make heart-warming ballads and spaced out piano rock that would garner lots of cash regardless of its actual worth until the end of their days, and everyone would have been just fine with that. Indifferent, maybe, but just fine nonetheless.


But then we wouldn’t have Viva La Vida.


Rolling Stone categorized X&Y as “the sound of a blown up band not trying to deflate.” If that be the case, then Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, the fourth studio album from the London quartet, is the sound of a blown up band not giving a ***. As the title suggests, Viva La Vida is a positively celebratory collection of songs seeping in melodies, hooks, and emotion that show Coldplay stripping themselves of the self-imposed chains that held back X&Y and letting it fly. There’s something blissfully carefree in this record’s ten tracks, evident in the shuffle beat of “Lovers in Japan” or the indie folk pop stylings of “Strawberry Swing.” Coldplay sounds like they’re just having fun. Even as Chris Martin deals his darkest, angriest lyrics yet (angry is a strong term. Perhaps a better one is mildly miffed), Viva La Vida shows Coldplay taking the risks that the general public had no idea they would ever take and having a ball doing it. The result is easily Coldplay’s best album to date, a record filled with exuberance, charm, and the heart they’ve been feigning for years.


Now, as much as they’ve progressed musically, it’s impossible to deny that Viva La Vida is still a “Coldplay” record. Yes it’s still extremely piano driven and yes Chris Martin is still singing. But the difference between this record and previous Coldplay outings is that all the songs are actually good. There are no missteps in the ten song duration of Viva La Vida, just ten ace tunes (thirteen when counting the three split-tracks on the album). Perhaps this stems from Brian Eno’s handiwork or the eyebrow-raising “Spanish influence” Martin spoke of during the album’s recording sessions, but most likely the record’s quality comes from the fact that Coldplay just refuses to stop rocking. The self-described “very heavy soft rock band” delivers Viva La Vida as a full on rock album, and its drive propels the album past most typical Coldplay issues. Ballads are conspicuously absent here-there’s no song for Chris Martin to walk in slow motion to- and thus Coldplay avoids the snag that dragged down their previous efforts. Instead, we’re treated to tracks like “Cemeteries of London”, a driving waltz of a tour de force that sticks gloriously in minor complete with a soaring gang chorus and hand claps to underlie the tension of Martin’s lyrics (“God is in the houses, God is in my head”).


As the second track on the album, “Cemeteries of London” exudes tons of promise for Viva La Vida, a promise only delivered on by tracks like “42” (which features a Jonny Greenwood-esque guitar freakout from Jonny Buckland. Finally a Radiohead comparison that makes sense) and “Violet Hill.” Like “Cemeteries of London,” both tracks are darker rock tunes that swell with tangible swagger and attitude that Coldplay until now had faked. “Violet Hill” in particular struts confidently, decked out with a stomping beat and Martin disposing of his usual niceties to deliver the single’s hook ”If you loved me, why’d you let me go?” Martin has never sounded more confident than he has on Viva La Vida, showing off his immense vocal range, flipping from the ecstatic upper reaches of “Life in Technicolor” and “Viva La Vida” to the eerily seductive baritone of “Yes.” It’s positively delightful to hear Martin have some breadth of emotion in his lyrics, as topics range from accusatory (“When the future's architectured by a carnival of idiots on show you'd better lie low”) to introspective (”No I don’t want a battle from beginning to end, I don’t wanna cycle/ recycle revenge, I don’t wanna follow death and all of his friends”) to a sort of sneering triumph (You thought you might be a ghost. You didn’t get to heaven but you made it close”). It sounds as though Martin is finally using the style and grace God gave him, and Viva La Vida is all the better for it.


Still, despite Martin delivering his best vocal performance to date, the most appealing aspect of Viva La Vida is that finally Coldplay sounds like an actual band. Viva La Vida isn’t a Chris Martin album with backing musicians like some Coldplay records in the past have seemed like. There’s proof in Viva La Vida that Coldplay are actually talented. Who knew drummer Will Champion was such a driving force behind what Coldplay do? Blame the production of Brian Eno or blame Martin’s ego shrinking enough to show off his band mates, but Viva La Vida could be Coldplay finally reaching their peak. Sure it’s more or less a “Coldplay record,” but there’s so much more to Viva La Vida to make it worthwhile. There’s chemistry, attitude, something resembling surprise, elements ignored by the obvious and predictable nature of Coldplay’s past. Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends takes a band who should have been in decline and a sound that’s been tried and true and makes it all sound fantastically fresh.


Touché, Coldplay.




Thought you guys would like this review, the writer likes bands such as sigur ros, godspeed you black emperor, joy division and radiohead so his musical taste is definetly one I can trust and relate to.

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