On Coldplay’s lastest album Viva La Vida, the band sounds for the first time as if their reaching outside of their comfort zone and not falling back on their effortless ability to create pop-friendly singalongs. And though Viva La Vida isn’t necessarily a complete departure for Coldplay, they certainly live up to their position as one of the biggest bands on the planet.
Their last album X&Y had a few songs that saw Coldplay branching out with some unique ideas, but for me the album was somewhat bogged down in bland love songs, which seems to be Coldplay’s weakness as a band. Most of the lyrics have themes of war and death, such as the lead single “Violet Hill” and the title track. However, with such bleak subject matter Chris Martin and co. are somehow able to give these songs a vibrant stadium-bound sound that Coldplay fans will no doubt fall in love with, even if they may seem a little strange at first. Istrumentally, the band shows an interest in more complex rhythms on “Cemetaries of London”, and “Lost”, and they also experiment with a unique use of strings on “42” and “Viva La Vida.
Coldplay’s experimentation with new sounds I’m sure has more than something to with the inclusion of producer Brian Eno, whose impressive resume includes includes working with Talking Heads, David Bowie and the band Coldplay is most often compared to, U2. Eno’s production definitely adds a bit of a world music sound to songs like the Middle Eastern sounding “Yes” or “Life in Technicolor”, which begins the album with the sound of a Persian santur, an instrument more commonly used in the traditional music of Iraq and Iran. It’s also the structure of the songs on Viva La Vida that make the album a departure for Coldplay. Many of the songs are composed of medley’s of at least two different songs and the majority of them don’t have your typical verse-chorus-verse arrangement. Most notably, the songs “42” and “Death and All of His Friends” share the same structure of “Fix You” in that they are composed of three different movements before building to a very catchy vocal climax.
I would say that Viva La Vida is without a doubt Coldplay’s least accesible album to date, it does kind of feel at times that their trying to make their songs less catchy than their songs are expected to be. However, Coldplay could have easily made a much less adventerous album and it still would have sold a bazillion copies, so I respect the fact that they took the approach that they did to this album.
Favorite Tracks: “42”, “Viva La Vida”, “Death And All His Friends”