Sorry, Coldplay, you’ll never be U2. There was a time some decades ago when U2 was actually kind of dangerous, a band purveying the angst of growing up and being stuck in an Irish nation in turmoil. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the modern conception of U2, who’ve made unreal bank on their 360 tour, but they are now an extremely well-oiled machine more than anything. On Mylo Xyloto, that’s where we find Coldplay. Coldplay’s always been a band that has had grand aspirations and managed to sound grand, but never had the sense of urgency or passion that defines contemporaries like Muse.
Let’s get it straight right off the bat: Coldplay sounds absolutely massive on this record. The production value is through the roof and it plays like it deserves to be played in arenas. It comes as no surprise that Brian Eno, longtime U2 producer, had his hand in the project just as he did with Viva La Vida. At its best moments, the record’s soundscapes consume you and sound like they were constructed for the arenas and amphitheaters they will inevitably be played in.
However, Mylo Xyloto lacks the direction and focus of a great record, as every Coldplay album to date has. Coldplay is a band that has had great individual moments throughout its career, like “Clocks” and “Yellow,” but has never had a defining sense of exactly what it is, which shows on the band’s records. Mylo Xyloto succeeds most when it drives instead of plods. For whatever reason, Coldplay seems to be quite fond of slowing things down, which may play into their reputation for being boring, bland – you name the word. I don’t know if Coldplay quite deserves that reputation, but they certainly don’t do a whole lot to push the envelope.
The most noticeable changes to their sound on this record are probably the electronic elements that they incorporated into songs such as “Paradise” and “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall.” Though it wouldn’t seem to be a natural fit for a band that has few – if any – danceable songs in their catalogue, neither song would be out of place at a club, though they won’t be reaching Jug jam status any time soon. What makes these songs work is that they are unabashedly pop and have anthemic, fist-raising choruses.
One place where one has to question their pop sentiment, though, is in their collaboration with Rihanna on “Princess of China.” Chris Martin has expressed that this is his favorite track on the album, which is frankly borderline absurd. It’s mildly intriguing at best, but the song feels out of place amongst the rest of the album. It’s nothing terrible, but the two artists do nothing to raise each other’s games. As for the rest of the material, “Major Minus” and “Charlie Brown” are strum-heavy jams that nicely display Jonny Buckland’s chops. After that, it’s mostly Coldplay-by-the-numbers that are pedestrian but inoffensive.
On the whole, it’s a pretty good, if singles-heavy album. Coldplay has never claimed to reinvent the wheel, and they by no means do, but for Top 40-ish that I’m likely to be beat to death by in the coming months, I might not even change the channel if I hear it.
Contact Pete Koehler at [email protected]