Thursday, July 24, 2008

Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends

At this point, Coldplay's new album Viva La Vida has been reviewed to death: 4.5/5, 4/5, 3.5/5, 6.5, and here. So, you may be wondering something like, "Ethan, what are you going to say that hasn't already been said?" or "Ethan, can you really put a different spin on your review?" The simple answer is, I certainly hope so. Every pair of ears is different, and certain ears have hidden agendas that really run the gamut from wanting to be a masochist (Thank you Pitchfork) to just loving everything by a hugely popular band (usually RollingStone's job). My ears try to take as much information into consideration as possible, filter out all the BS and come to an unbiased conclusion. Does this always work? Not always. It's hard not to give the benefit of the doubt to bands you really enjoy. At the same time, giving a fair shake to something I normally don't enjoy can be a tough task as well. I happen to like Coldplay. There, I said it. If I'm not mistaken there was a time when saying that would ellicit various reactions. Early on, it could be, "Cool. Who's that?" Then it progressed, to "Yeah, I guess they're pretty cool" to "That song 'Yellow' is really awesome" to "That song 'Yellow' annoys the shit out of me" to "That new album Rush of really fantastic" all the way to the extreme of "Dude. You're an idiot. They suck ass." Basically, Coldplay have progressed from unknown it band to one of the biggest bands in the world. Some would call the rise "meteoric" and I would concur. I would say a lot of the negative stigma towards a band like Coldplay is due to the ideas of "selling out" or generally changing their music or just writing music that is perceived as soft, then claiming to be a rock band. All of which is somewhat valid. Or you could just not enjoy the music. That's fair too. It's undeniable they have a penchant for writing the hookiest of hooks in popular music. Certain melodies stay with you for days, if you want them to or not.

Now that I've rambled on (thank you Led Zeppelin) let's get to the album at hand. Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends is actually a great representation of the album as a whole. There are multiple songs that see the band switching halfway through to almost a new song entirely. It's not that they can't make up their minds, but many of them seem to be a natural dichotomy that they want to explore. They make a statement and then instead of stopping the "Record" button, they just go on and make another statement that flow nicely into each other. Whether they are mixing things up in the live show and performing them "out of order" I have no idea. Are Chris Martin's lyrics still a bit trite at times? Yeah, sure. But then again they're not layered to an effect that you have no idea what he means or what he's feeling. As for the music, it has a different luster thanks to some high-priced producers; namely Brian Eno (U2, Paul Simon, David Bowie) and Markus Dravs (Björk and Arcade Fire). There are a couple recognizable changes on this album. Firstly, Chris Martin frequently abandons his trademark falsetto for a melodic chest voice further down in his large vocal range. This feels more personal and less bombastic than previous high-flying anthemic songs. The anthems are still intact but they are more streamlined and carefully constructed under the watched eye of Eno. Another thing that you'll notice is the lack of piano. The piano is a staple that Martin loves to employ to the point where albums become recitals. Here the piano is used for some melodies but it's not used as the root basis for all the songs. Overall, I really enjoyed this album. More than the previous effort which could have just been a dedication to Gwenyth. Thankfully, this album marks a step in a slightly different direction for Coldplay. Their essence hasn't changed, but the way their music is made has. Gone are the days of Parachutes and it's more indie-acoustic guitars mentality. After all, it's hard to rock 20,000 seat arenas with an acoustic guitar. Right?

B-side: "Death Will Never Conquer"

1 comment:

ChrisMooreMusic said...

Really interesting read...

I have been somewhat interested in Coldplay for the past three albums, but the Coldplay songs on "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends" are off the charts!! As someone who has recorded cover songs of Coldplay, I've most enjoyed the material from this great concept album!!