Beg your pardon, but would you mind if we, well, took over the world? Quietly and politely, Coldplay has become one of the biggest musical acts on the planet. They did it with some dreamy piano pop, a sensitive, falsettoed frontman, and that U.K. magic that's worked for the likes of the Beatles, U2 and Radiohead, writes The Seattle Times, ahead of this weekend's shows in Portland and George.
Coldplay has been accused of being bland, even yawn-inducing (a British TraveLodge poll voted them the Band Most Likely to Put You to Sleep). But that hasn't stopped them from selling more than 30 million albums and trucking in a heap of Grammys. They're so big their tours are massive spectacles only appropriately launched with a trio of continent-spanning free concerts. (And speaking of gigs, they're playing the Gorge Amphitheatre Saturday — not free, but sure to be epic.)
But their fourth album released last year is a testament to Coldplay's willingness to change, evolve and improve to stay at the top. With "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends," the British foursome staged a revolution — a well-behaved one, of course.
Before you even get to the music, the album's cover art is Eugène Delacroix's painting of "Liberty Leading the People." And the first half of the name is a battle cry: "Long Live Life."
Dubbed by the band as their "experimental album," "Viva" does forge new territory, for them. Under the guidance of producers Brian Eno and Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire), the songs benefit from Middle Eastern instruments, exotic percussion and galloping guitar melodies. Chris Martin has reeled in his soaring falsetto and wraps the melodies with a deeper baritone. His lyrics veer more political than past albums.
Eno did what he could to break the band of old habits and shake them from their insecurities. They spent time in Spanish cathedrals ("Cemeteries of London" has some Flamenco-inspired hand claps). They built their own pianos. Eno even hired a hypnotist to put them in a trance for some of their music making.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the ever-self-deprecating Martin said, "Things like the hypnotism, all these little crazy experiments that he tried with us was just an effort to say, 'It's OK. Not everybody hates you because you're in Coldplay. Just play some music and don't worry about it.' "
Eno produced a number of U2 albums, most notably "The Joshua Tree." His influence comes through on a track like "Lovers in Japan," with its striding rhythm, or on "Lost!," with its Edge- inspired guitar solo. You can also hear strains of Radiohead, Blur, even My Bloody Valentine. "We look at what other people are doing and try and steal all the good bits," Martin said in an interview with MTV. "We steal from so many different places that hopefully it becomes untraceable."
They have created a blend that's all their own, but they're not reinventing Brit rock. Just doing it well. And for that, the album really wasn't the sort of experiment that proves risky. That's a smart move for a group with a huge fan base to keep happy and gargantuan arenas to fill on their current 100-stop Viva la Vida world tour, which begins in the Portland area tonight.
But fill they will (the Gorge has long been sold out). "Viva" does nothing except solidify Coldplay's place at the top. It was the best-selling album of 2008 and won the 2009 Grammy for Best Rock Album.
And it's arena-worthy for sure. Not only are the melodies soaring and the choruses begging to be sung along to, its themes tackle the big guns: life, death, love, war, peace. That is to say the album is universal. Appropriate for this moment's biggest band in the world.
Source: Seattle Times
Coldplay at Roskilde Festival, Denmark (5th July 2009):
Pictures by rockfoto.nu