Nov 28, 2011 Web Exclusive
For rabid consumers of music, there's nothing better than a good surprise and this year has held quite a few. Prior to their last album, 2008's Brian Eno-produced Viva la Vida, Coldplay were mostly a punchline to this writer, but that album's sonic explorations and undeniable hooks gave me good reason to take Coldplay a bit more seriously. Mylo Xyloto—with Eno at the helm once again—strengthens that argument even more. Mylo Xyloto isn't just the best album Coldplay has released thus far, it's a great album by any measure—which makes it one of this year's biggest surprises.
Of course, this being Coldplay, there is still plenty to pick apart: the lyrics are still questionable and vague at best, their design aesthetic appears to be the Dharma Initiative via Achtung Baby, and Chris Martin still sports an impeccably bland personality. However, I'd like to set aside the usual potshots for now and focus on the positive, because there's a lot of it. Mylo Xyloto is the first Coldplay album that could be accurately described as "rock" and a lot of that is due to the album's MVP, guitarist Jonny Buckland, whose searing leads and chiming arpeggios have never sounded so commanding and stirring. Where previous Coldplay albums felt like Chris Martin plus some other guys, Mylo Xyloto feels like it was created by an actual rock band, with each player stepping up his game.
Added oomph also comes via Eno's rich, textural production. "Paradise" drops an honest-to-god beat amongst the piano and strings that gives the band a bottom-end you can feel. The Rihanna-assisted "Princess of China" introduces itself with Rihanna cooing from behind a dense wall of white noise. Mylo Xyloto's finest anthem, "Charlie Brown," shoots for The Suburbs with the clumsy line "Stole the key/took a car downtown to where the lost boys meet/took what they offered me" but redeems itself with a massive, ascending guitar hook that I can't help feeling would have sound-tracked any climactic scene from Friday Night Lights beautifully.
It's difficult to ascertain how much credit to give Eno for Coldplay's uptick in ambition and quality but Martin and the band have certainly been eager, open-minded students: "First and foremost, we do anything he says," said Martin in a recent interview. However, Martin has always been an exceptional melodist and the rest of the band—bassist Guy Berryman, drummer Will Champion, and especially Buckland—have always been underrated players. The talent was there but they seem to have needed a strong hand to push them in the right direction. (www.coldplay.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 7/10