Our latest featured review of Mylo Xyloto is from the San Francisco Weekly blogs site, who on their first listen of the new album have compared Coldplay with 1970's rock band, The Police, the 'never-cool band that nevertheless forced cool people to notice it in addition to the rest of the world'. PJ Harvey, M83, Robyn and the Pet Shop Boys all get a mention too. How do they arrive at these comparisons? Read on for their full review...
The No. 1 album in the country this week is by the biggest band on Earth. All is right with the world? Well, hold that thought. Unlike textural forbears U2 and Radiohead, much less the Clash or Nirvana, most people even willing to concede that Coldplay is a relevant force do not think it has made great albums. A Rush of Blood to the Head was very good, and surprisingly spiky when it wanted to be (which was not often), while X&Y and Parachutes were singles-plus-other-stuff.
Viva La Vida was Something Different, sort of. It had a huge title hit and will almost certainly age better than Zooropa (played "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car" lately?). But Eno's not exactly Nigel Godrich these days. Where does that leave Mylo Xyloto, which is allegedly named after the protagonists in a probably total bullshit storyline? With Coldplay's best reviews since Rush. Let's test them...
I'm sucker for the title-tune fakeout trick. Remember when you finally got to "Birds" on Quasi's Featuring "Birds" and it was literally just a minute of recorded birds? This isn't as fun.
"Hurts Like Heaven"
But oh what it leads into. Coldplay was so stodgy circa "Speed of Sound" or so that it's inevitable the most actually influential band of that era is who they're aping now: their idea of fun is Arcade Fire. But with synths! With any other band I'd scoff hard at this. But if Arcade Fire's bookish groove could make anyone less generic, it's these guys. And did I mention there's synths?
God, that string riff. I know this. I swear. I like that the hip-hop drums, "para-para" stutter-syllable hook and single designation trick you into thinking this might be the Rihanna song. But it's not.
Love the cavernous How to Dress Well-style intro. And the guitar riff (doubled by marimba, of course!) What's with this band and guitar riffs lately? Are they trying to make people think they rock? Silly band. I like this as much as anything they've done, though.
"Us Against the World"
Cough; hardly. Cheeky title for the first "boring" song, though, considering Coldplay being boring is usually what the world's against. (The part of the world that isn't buying all the Coldplay records I mean. Chechnya, or something.) This is sprightly and tuneful.
Their "Treefingers". No really, it leads into the single like Radiohead did into "Optimistic." Though the single is, uh, much lighter fare.
"Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall"
From day one, I could not front about loving this song, which sucks because unlike merely loving the occasional Coldplay song, I've now demoted myself to loving the occasional Coldplay song about crying. To its credit, this beat-y thing did everything it could to avoid the typecasting of the title: triumphant, pennywhistle-like guitar riff, swellheaded bass-drum throb, and a cover endorsement by none other than Official Dancehall Queen Robyn, who sings it better but needs the guitar. Essential!
Speaking of Zooropa, this is a weird song with odd tech ideas and an odd melody some are comparing to Radiohead. And Chris Martin sings it in a goofy surfer-Ringo accent. But this is way too upbeat to be Radiohead. The trip-hop part that kicks in reminds me of "The Wind," off PJ Harvey's Is This Desire?. Still very impressed with the number of balls-out guitar leads Martin allows Johnny Buckland on this thing.
All right, a truly empty one. But it's only two minutes long. One reason this album's very good at circumventing bad reviews is because it's very coy; lots of interludes, or at least filler that could pass for them. Either way, this album's going by quickly. But "Waterfall"'s the only song in the last four that I'd actually ask myself to put on. And I'm going to keep comparing this band to M83 if it keeps naming stuff after UFOs.
"Princess of China"
The Rihanna one. Something cute about two of the most middlebrow, singles-only artists in recent memory being so in love with one another. But it's no "Disturbia." This is actually kind of chillwave -- check that stiff backbeat and frayed-out synth rain. But it cleans house significantly for RiRi's verse. If you think this isn't going to be a huge hit single, you're out of your fucking brain. "You stole my star" she sings. Uh, yeah.
"Up in Flames"
One of those pretty-good McBallads that Martin conjures up whenever he needs to fill that quota; it's this album's "Fix You" but with the space-rimshots from OutKast's "Elevators." But this is probably much tighter than "Fix You". Maybe even "The Scientist." I like this one a lot. Twisty harmonized falsetto hook of my dreams, and yes, guitar near the end. Weird how Coldplay's "pop" album is also definitely its "rock" album. Maybe this band is just gaining definition?
"A Hopeful Transmission"
30 seconds of muted worldbeat and strings, damn this went fast.
"Don't Let It Break Your Heart"
Lots o' big cymbal crashes and a skittering Pet Shop Boys bedrock in the verses. Occasionally the Irish bit from "Waterfall" sneaks back in. This one probably goes over huge live, if that's such a thing at a Coldplay show. I've never been to a Coldplay show. Do they rock?
"Up with the Birds"
Just a little trifle to end this remarkably joyous and fast-moving record that ends up being kind of greater than the sum of its parts. Certainly more so than that stupid M83 album. But is the biggest band in the world the biggest band in the world yet? Well, not necessarily. It's still too polite about space and musical economy, about not taking risks or busying up a chord sequence when they could drag out one somber note. But Coldplay isn't U2, because Chris Martin lacks the dominating ability to bludgeon you the way Bono does.
If there's an Only Band That Matters to compare them to, it's the Police, the never-cool band that nevertheless forced cool people to notice it in addition to the rest of the world. And Mylo Xyloto is definitely a Zenyatta Mondatta-esque title. You could call this Coldplay's Synchronicity, even though Sting/Andy/Stewart wrote both tighter ("Every Breath You Take") and looser ("Mother"). "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall" makes the encrypted stalker's motto "Breath" sound as scary as it really is by comparison. And that's not necessarily a bad thing for either one. [Article Ends]
Kit yourself up for the forthcoming MX tour and get spotted with Coldplaying's new range of merchandise! [click on the items for the full shop]
The new range of Coldplaying merchanise (unofficial of course to the official shop) has hit our stores, with our biggest range of goods so far. Prices are as low as they can be for a Cafepress shop so more people will be able to afford them. We don't take any profits for the sale of the merchandise as a result. Take a browse in one of the online stores nearest to you: UK | US | Canada | Australia | European (shipping is worldwide, but you can choose what currency to pay in) - simply alter the country dropdown menu at the top of the shop page. [thanks to TracieMorgan and zzz]
Latest photos of Coldplay at the MX launch event in Cologne, Germany (for 1Live Radiokonzert E-Werk - 2nd November 2011):