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Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto

on October 25, 2011, 8:00am
Coldplay Mylo Xyloto D
Release Date

Coldplay – noun – an English quartet that creates accessible alternative rock, glazed over with just enough sentimentality to strangle your heart. (Related forms: Travis, Radiohead, U2, Oasis, et al.)

Some love ‘em, some hate ‘em. Regardless, their success is paramount. In a recent op-ed piece in The New Yorker titled “Why Don’t I Like Coldplay?: An Investigation”, writer Sasha Frere-Jones digresses: “What puts [Coldplay] up into some higher level of accessibility must be an averaging of [Chris] Martin’s guarantee to never shock or offend anyone—which parents value—and the toy soldier brand of pageantry and celebration that underpins so many songs.” Fan or not, it’s hard to disagree with Frere-Jones here. Since their inception in the late ’90s, the UK collective have hardly breached areas that weren’t destined for success. Their debut album, Parachutes, oozed of surrounding acclaimed British talents—specifically Travis and early Radiohead—while its follow-up, 2002′s A Rush of Blood to the Head, shifted this sound forward, albeit more polished and assured. Over the past decade, they’ve ricocheted inside the boundaries they’ve built around themselves (e.g. 2005′s X&Y), only cracking through in moments (2008′s Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends). But they’re hardly seeking success anymore; instead, success comes to them. This past summer they proved that when they headlined half a dozen festivals without an LP out to support. Visit YouTube, search for “coldplay, fix you, live”, and you’ll see how solid of a connection they have with their audiences today: People eat this stuff up.

And they never get full. Ever. On Coldplay’s latest LP, the eccentrically titled Mylo Xyloto, Chris Martin and the gang continue to shelve out these festival-ready ballads and straight-to-cinema singles. The only difference? They’re louder and more polished. If critics had a difficult time considering the band “alternative” before, they’ll lose sleep over it now. Check out current single “Paradise”. It’s catchy, it’s addicting, and it’s almost a paint-by-numbers Coldplay single, except now it’s weighty in excess, sounding more like a hip-hop anthem than something akin to Brit-pop. That’s understandable, especially given Martin’s allegiance to Kanye West and Jay-Z, but it’s slightly gaudy.

That’s a good word to work with here: “gaudy.” So much of Mylo Xyloto is awash in synthetic tones, all designed to flash ‘n’ dazzle, that it feels too cheap by its end. Take past single “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall”, probably the album’s weakest track, but also its true harbinger. Heartbeat drums, miles of synth lines, and scattered guitar parts make for one of the most convoluted tracks in the band’s repertoire. Lyrically, it’s almost insulting. We’ve heard many a lame lyric from Martin, but this one’s filled with solid clunkers (“I turn the music up/I got my record on/from underneath the rubble/sing a rebel song”). It doesn’t help that he repeats the annoying title again and again.

As Frere-Jones continues in his investigation, “Seven out of ten times, Coldplay sound almost exactly like U2—the U2 that exists now, not the wiry, feral U2 of 1980 (which would be a decent idea).” It’s an obvious comparison (have you heard “Life in Technicolor”?), though it’s never been this obvious. Tracks like the rollicking “Charlie Brown” or the uber-rollicking “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” echo any number of songs off recent U2 efforts—vocally and instrumentally. Martin croons at a pace similar to Bono, The Edge haunts Jonny Buckland’s every riff (for best example, see: “Major Minus”), while Adam Clayton could fill in for Coldplay bassist Guy Berryman, and no one would ever know. This sort of aping used to be slightly charming, but now it’s just distracting.

With their last effort, Viva La Vida…, Coldplay carved out a dense, intricate collage, layered to precision that, for the most part, worked through and through. Although its later EP, Prospekt’s March, trimmed much of the fat, the original LP can still be regarded for its true focus. To contrast, Mylo Xyloto is a clustered collection of ideas and themes. It’s almost the antithesis of their previous work. A track like “Major Minus” has all the right trinkets for a perfect atmosphere but lacks a solid verse. “Up in Flames” climbs higher and higher but to nowhere in particular. Rihanna interestingly enough pops up on “Princess of China”, but namely for kicks or, to borrow from Perry Farrell, “just because.”

It’s not all troublesome. Early on, “Hurts Like Heaven” runs off this TV on the Radio-like swagger, which works to Martin’s benefit. When he croons, “Yes, you/You use your heart like a weapon/and it hurts like heaven,” it’s no doubt nonsensical, but it really gels. Instrumentally, it’s one of the more adventurous pieces. Buckland goes to town before song’s end, skating about under harmonies and effects that tug the heart like old Cure tracks. A little later, Martin keeps things close to earth on “Us Against the World”, one of the more tender moments in the album’s frantic composure. He softly sings, “Through chaos as it swirls/It’s just us against the world.” Of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Judging from the hoopla that surrounds them, it’s hard to believe they’re against anyone but themselves. Because of this, Mylo Xyloto feels like the group’s mid-life crisis. They’re attempting to breach their comfort zone, and they’re definitely drilling away here, but it’s questionable whether or not it’s in the right area. But really, does it matter? There’s no real, clean-cut answer to that, though you can start by asking their millions of fans.

Essential Tracks: “Hurts Like Heaven”, “Us Against the World”

Feature artwork by Cap Blackard.


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November 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Andy, there were a whole lot of bands that jumped on the Coldplay sound. Some were dire (One Republic) or just dreary (Athlete). Maybe COS could do a List Em on this – bands that copied Coldplay and for people like you a ‘These we have plagiarised’

October 30, 2011 at 6:56 am

I agree with this review. I’ve been a Coldplay fan since the start. This album is absolute polished backwash. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall I can’t even get through before turning the station. It’s just boring as hell. Us Against The World is an attempt to do Johnny Cash all over again. Hurts Like Heaven and U.F.O. are the only tracks worth owning on this record and if you can get past the Chris-Martin-Goes-Hip-Hop on Paradise then that track as well. For people to call this brilliant…is beyond me. There’s no stand out single that makes me want to hum along like the older stuff. And I really dug Viva La Vida. Such a shame.

November 9, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I didn’t say it was brilliant – I said ‘there are some brilliant songs on Mylo Xyloto’. Having listened to the album a lot more now, there’s about 6 songs I’d apply that label to. That makes it a not bad album in my book. Overall it’s not the best thing ever to come from Coldplay but i stand by my ‘streets ahead’ remark.

October 27, 2011 at 7:50 pm

I don’t understand why you think the lyrics to “Hurts Like Heaven” are “nonsensical”. Makes perfect sense to me.

October 26, 2011 at 8:40 am

Actually you can appreciate good writing without totally agreeing with the reviewer’s verdict. The standard of writing on this site is pretty good and often outstanding. He makes some good points here though quoting an article titled ‘Why I don’t like Coldplay’ is disingenious and I don’t get the obsession with U2. For me Coldplay is unique – other bands copy them, not vice versa. Chris Martin sings in tune, end of story - check out the Glastonbury videos. For me there are some brilliant songs on Mylo Xyloto but I’d like to give it a bit longer to decide if it is as cohesive as their earlier albums. Maybe one or two songs too many but so far still streets ahead of most bands out there.

Andy Morgan
October 31, 2011 at 2:12 pm

“For me Coldplay is unique – other bands copy them, not vice versa.”

Thank you.
I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

October 26, 2011 at 5:52 am

Seriously, who wrote this review??  This album is actually unbelievably incredible!!!  I had my doubt too as I seem to do with every Coldplay album, but really…this is AMAZING!!!!
The only song that actually seems out of place is the Rihanna song, even though it stands alone well on itself.  Please Michael Roffman, change your diapers and learn how to review decent music!  You suck ASS!!!!!

October 26, 2011 at 2:02 am

 I disagree. Just because their overall sound has changed doesn’t mean they’re in a “mid-life-crisis”. Coldplay is just growing up, and I think the album is fantastic. The Instrumentals alone are incredible and once you add Chris Martin’s beautiful voice into the mix you really can’t go wrong. Coldplay is wonderful and I think think this album was a success. I can’t wait for them to tour in the U.S.

October 26, 2011 at 7:25 am

Chris Martin is the world’s most out of tune singer on stage. I’m amazed it isn’t talked about more. Hearing him trying to do the falsetto stuff live is pretty cringe worthy, especially since he is constantly breaking in and out of it for “emotional” effect. I think he should hammer us all over the head with a different lame technique that he can at least pull off. Emo kids sang better than him. EMO KIDS for god’s sake!

ghost that never lies…
October 25, 2011 at 11:34 pm

I at first wanted to jump on this review b/c of the stars, but I must say it was a very well written review…. though I am a fan, I have yet to want to listen to this album b/c I am nervous I am going to hate it.  We’ll see, but nice job chap.

C O Lin
October 25, 2011 at 11:47 pm

its slick man

C O Lin
October 25, 2011 at 11:47 pm

its slick man

ghost that never lies…
November 1, 2011 at 12:07 am

so I finally listened to it.  The album is pure shit.  absolute rubbish. They lyrics are terrible, the songs are boring, and for once, you can actually rip on them for being horrible…..

Very disappointing

October 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm

just goes to show that when Brian Eno is involved (Viva la Vida), the world’s music is in a better place…

October 25, 2011 at 4:39 pm

brian eno is involved in this one too

October 25, 2011 at 5:43 pm

and with X&Y…Coldplay sucks and is now a polished shell of it’s former self. I didn’t like them when they came out with Parachutes and A Rush (to radiohead-y) but now think they were decent albums. everything past that takes on a new U2ish grandiosity with catchy “heart-beat” drums and soaring choruses. Hopefully this album is what reveals this to the masses. 

Myke Olsen
October 25, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Typo alert: at least twice in the review you refer to the album as “Mylos Xylos,” not “Mylo Xyloto.”


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